Ahead of the weekend, North Yorkshire Police supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority issued a clear message to the public to stay home and not to travel to countryside beauty spots for exercise or any other non-essential reason.
David Butterworth, the National Park Authority’s Chief Executive said: “This weekend saw a dramatic change in behaviour with the Park being very quiet. It was clear that Government advice was being followed – with people staying home and avoiding all unnecessary travel – and we’re very grateful for that, thank you”.
“I’m particularly grateful for the work of the Police led by Inspectors, Mark Gee and Lorraine Crossman-Smith. They were a very visible and effective presence, alongside our Ranger Service throughout the National Park and that was appreciated by the local communities. Just as important was the opportunity to test our joint working and procedures, which will be even more important as the weeks go by.
We would, however, discourage people from blocking car parks and public footpaths.
Mr Butterworth commented: “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 the 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.”