Parks Victoria official have seen an increase in visitor numbers to parks across Melbourne, including Plenty Gorge as pictured, since the pandemic hit.

PATRONS have begun to flock back to parks and outdoor spaces across the City of Whittlesea as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease and the weather improves.

People living in the metropolitan Melbourne area were allowed to travel within a 25-kilometre radius of their homes after an easing of restrictions in mid-October and can now travel freely throughout Victoria after Premier Daniel Andrews announced another step in the state’s roadmap to recovery on the weekend.

Parks Victoria officials said spring weather and the loosening of restrictions had seen visitor numbers increase at parks across Melbourne, including popular destinations within the City of Whittlesea such as Plenty Gorge and Yan Yean Reservoir.

Parks Victoria north-east Melbourne district manager Philip Ross said many people were eager to make the most of their ability to travel by exploring nature.

He said outdoor recreation played a large role in keeping people active and healthy while remaining safely physically distanced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In recent months we’ve seen an increase in visitor numbers in parks right across metropolitan Melbourne, including Yan Yean Reservoir and Plenty Gorge Park,” he said.

“Opportunities to connect with nature close to home have never been more important. That’s why the Victorian Government is investing in the new Plenty River Trail to offer visitors more ways to walk, ride, play and stay in this beautiful bushland in Melbourne’s north.”

“Visitors to parks and reserves are reminded of physical distancing, hygiene and face-mask requirements, and to stay home if unwell.”

The Plenty River Trail works would link the northern section of Plenty Gorge Park in Doreen with the southern section in South Morang, Mill Park and Bundoora.

The State Government has set aside $19.3 million for the trail link, as well as $800,000 for upgrades to the Hawkstowe Picnic Area and $383,500 for Nioka Bush Camp.

People can provide input and have their say on the proposed works by visiting engage.vic.gov.au/plenty-river-trail.

Mr Ross said Parks Victoria rangers regularly patrolled Plenty Gorge Park to monitor park usage and visitor behaviour, ensuring people continued to abide by appropriate physical distancing restrictions.

Some parks remain closed on the advice of health authorities due to COVID-19 restrictions. People can view a list of closures by visiting parks.vic.gov.au/covid19.

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