Walk in Woods Weather 3-27-18

Karen Stein, left, of Foxboro, and Lauren Gordon of Wrentham, the director of the Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary in Attleboro, walk through the refuge.

Mass Audubon has closed all its sanctuaries, including Oak Knoll off Park Street in Attleboro and Stony Brook off North Street in Norfolk.

The sanctuaries had been among the outdoor refuges that the public could visit to get outdoors during the coronavirus outbreak, but Aububon officials say they had to close them Tuesday.

The decision followed Gov. Charlie Baker’s order requiring all nonessential businesses to close for two weeks and the state Department of Health’s stay-at-home advisory.

“We know how important it is to get out in nature, and there is nothing we like better than seeing people enjoying our trails,” Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton said. “But the health and safety of the residents of Massachusetts and beyond must take priority.”

He encouraged people to enjoy the outdoors, just close to home.

“We closed our buildings but invited visitors to walk the trails while following social distancing guidelines. And many, many people took us up on that offer. In fact, our parking lots at many wildlife sanctuaries were overflowing beyond capacity,” Mass Audubon said on its website. “Increased visitors walking along often narrow trails and boardwalks was making social distancing difficult. Increased visitation was also putting our property staff and fellow visitors at risk.”

Mass Audubon operates 60 wildlife sanctuaries across the state.

“When COVID-19 first began spreading in Massachusetts, our wildlife sanctuaries offered a place for people to escape,” Mass Audubon added. “We want nothing more than to reopen our trails” as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Also closing to the public are dozens of agricultural sites of the Trustees of Reservations. They will remain open to care for animals and produce and deliver food.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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