Panama Rocks Eyes Phased Opening To Public
One of Chautauqua County’s most scenic attractions will open for Memorial Day weekend.
Jonathan Weston, Panama Rocks owner, said he is looking to start a phased opening of the Panama Rocks trail that includes towering rocks, deep crevices and small caves this weekend. He has been working on establishing a reservation system online where people can pay the site fee, reserve a time and sign a digital wavier before visiting the forest at Panama Rocks. He said he will be opening to season pass holders during the first phase during Memorial Day weekend before opening the park to other guests by reservation during the second phase.
“Having a contactless system is our goal. All they will have to do is check-in,” he said. “I can greet them from a distance, and that is what we are trying to do. If everything goes well with the season pass holders, we can open for everyone else.”
Weston said because Panama Rocks is a private park they were allowed to open before now. Typically, the park opens the first weekend in May. However, because Panama Rocks is a family-owned park, with the family living in close proximity, Weston delayed the opening.
“We’re not like a lot of parks. We bring in around 20,000 people from around the world in a normal year,” he said. “We have to open in a way that is safe. It’s a family-run place. My mom and I have run the office the last few years. My mother is 73 years old and my father is 78. They are both at high-risk, so we are being very careful.”
Weston said he has posted the park’s COVID-19 policy to its website, panamarocks.com, and Facebook page at Panama Rocks Park.
“I did a video for our Facebook followers. I got choked up. This is not easy. This is my livelihood, but my family’s health comes before anything else,” Weston said. “We have received a ton of support. Thousands of people have tuned into our updates. People are saying we are doing the right thing. We need to have policies and procedures in place to keep everybody as safe as possible.”
Weston said safety is always a priority for the park because of the tall rocks and cliffs along the trail.
“We always take safety very seriously,” he said. “The last thing I want is for someone to be having fun with their family and friends and get injured or sick. We put a premium on safety.”