Visitors center, state parks close due to coronavirus concerns

Bob Nilson of the Benon Visitor Center chats with Ron and Dolo Causseaux, full-time RVers who are planning to head back to their home state of Georgia because of COVID-19 impacts on tourist destinations throughout the country.

It seems coronavirus updates change by the minute, as the outbreak continues its relentless reach across the country.

While the Benson Visitor Center was one of the few in the state still open for business last week, that changed on Saturday.

“We were still seeing a trickle of visitors on Friday, answering questions and informing them of closures,” said Bob Nilson, Benson Visitor Center supervisor. “But after the first confirmed case of coronavirus hit Cochise County, we were mandated to close our doors to the public on Saturday.”

Two staff members are manning phones, each working three days a week, but visitors are not allowed access inside the building, Nilson said.

“Closures across the state are hitting every business hard, and tourism is no exception. That includes hotels, RV parks, restaurants and tourist destinations. It’s like a ghost town out there.”

Snowbirds and RVers are leaving the area earlier than usual to get home where they’re closer to family members and doctors, said Kathy Turner, a office worker at CTRV Resort — formerly Cochise Terrace RV Resort, out of Benson.

“We’ve had some of our Canadians leave because they have to get back in order to be able to cross the border before it’s closed, and because of insurance deadlines,” she said. “We’ve also had a lot of cancellations when this started because people just don’t want to be out traveling right now because of the closures.”

Butterfield RV Park also experienced cancellations earlier in the month, but those have leveled off now, said Regina Johnson, who serves as park manager with her husband. “Our overnight guests are drizzling down, but month-long guests are staying and are sheltering in place because of the social distancing guidelines,” she said.

While some snowbirds have left SKP Saguaro Co-op of Arizona (RV Park) earlier than usual to head home, park office manager Tish Luzadder said the majority of renters and leaseholders have decided to “stay put and wait it out,” adding that the park is not accepting new guests as a precautionary measure.

Kartchner Caverns State Park, another big Benson destination spot, closed the Discovery Center and cave tours have been cancelled until further notice, said Michelle Thompson, chief of communications with Arizona Parks and Trails.

“All campgrounds, cabins and trails are open,” Thompson said. “Tombstone Courthouse Historic State Park also is closed, as we’re following the state guidelines.”

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