Dales residents urged not to block car parks and footpaths

A message from residents of West Burton in the first lockdown. Photo: North Yorkshire Police.

Residents of the Yorkshire Dales have been urged not to block car parks and footpaths to deter visitors as it could have the opposite effect of what is intended.

In recent weeks fears have grown about the number of visitors coming to the Yorkshire Dales National Park — despite the Government urging the public to stay at home to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Police say the number of vehicle movements and people visiting Dales beauty spots was much reduced this weekend, however concerns remain that visitors could bring the virus with them and pass it on to local residents.

David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said this weekend had seen “a dramatic change in behaviour with the park being very quiet”.

He thanked the public for keep away, but added that the park authority wanted to discourage local residents from taking their own action to keep people away, including blocking car parks and public footpaths.

“Of course I understand why someone feels the need to take such action, but it is unhelpful for a couple of reasons.

“First, it pulls resources away from more important tasks and draws more people into the area than need be there, in order to deal with the matter.

“Second, and more importantly, the authority has a lot of car parks in remote locations, which may be required by the emergency services for the distribution of food, supplies and other resources to the park’s more remote areas.

“That is why they have a ‘soft closure’ in place rather than permanent barriers placed in front of them.

“The Government have been clear that rights of way should remain open for local people to exercise, and we have to enforce that, which again means pulling resources away from more important tasks to deal with removing blockages and closure signs.

“Finally, the strident nature of some of home-made messages being put up in parts of the park is unhelpful.

“There’s absolutely no problem reminding people of the Government’s advice in terms of travelling and social distancing, but we need to be careful not to cause unnecessary divisions between deeply rural communities and market towns or larger urban areas.

“There is an interconnectivity here which we need to recognise and respect. Dales communities need the resources provided by our local towns whether they are supermarkets, chemists, doctors or hospitals. We’d also hope to encourage people back into the Park when the time is right.

“I know it can sound blasé but we really are all in this together.

“We need to show kindness, respect, and to hold onto our humanity. North Yorkshire appears to have been more fortunate than other areas so far with the impact of the virus, but it may get more difficult in the future. If we follow Government and medical advice, we can get through this terrible time – together as a community.” [kofi]