Cliffs of the Neuse reopens with restrictions

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SEVEN SPRINGS – Cliffs of the Neuse State Park officially reopened May 9 and is strictly following Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 1 plan.

The picturesque 1,100-acre recreation area is available just for avid hikers and residents who wish to walk their family pets. One restroom is open to the public at the park’s visitor’s center.

Park Superintendent Eric Siratt said approximately 5,000 guests visited the Cliffs and the park staff encountered very few issues. As expected, social distancing was a concern.

“[The visitors] are double about what we normally have,” Siratt said. “It provides people an outlet and I understand this is a stressful time for everybody. We’ve had to talk to a couple of people about it, but for the most part, people are obeying the social distancing.

“Dogs off the leash and litter is what we’ve been dealing with quite a bit because of the overwhelming crowds.”

Depending on Cooper’s orders, Siratt hopes to open the campground area and shower house on May 22. He doesn’t know if the park will open the lake area, which would occur in Phase 3 once the social distancing restrictions have been lifted.

The Cliffs closed in mid-March when the COVID-19 outbreak occurred.

Siratt and his staff tackled a number of projects to help improve the park’s overall look and make it more visitor-friendly. Speed bumps were added to slow traffic traveling in and out of the facility, and also to protect hikers on the road.

The HVAC unit that services the visitor’s center has been upgraded.

Hikers can stop at the overlook area and enjoy a better view of nature’s beauty. They can safely navigate the 350-yard trail that has new gravel, which covers areas eroded by rain water.

A kids’ playground is under construction. All of the play equipment will be made from natural material. Children will be able to run around, play and also learn about nature at the same time. Siratt said a blueprint has been designed for the project, but a completion date has not been determined.

“We’ve been trying to tidy up the park and work on camp sites,” said Siratt, whose team finally received much-needed personal protective equipment to assist with the daily cleaning.

“Even though the park was closed, we still had grass to cut and needed to maintain the park. The staff has worked extremely hard ... [I] have a great team that I work with. Everybody has been pitching in. We take pride in the park and we’re trying to make it shine.”

Park events for May have been canceled. Siratt said interpretative programs about the park can be viewed online on the Friends of Cliffs of the Neuse Facebook page.

“As of right now, they told us to put a hold on everything because they still don’t want any big crowds,” Siratt said. “The next big event that we do have coming up would be in October. For the time being, we really don’t have much going on until we get through the pandemic.”

The Cliffs’ hours are currently 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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