SUNBURY — The threat of rain didn't stop Robert and Anne Pappas from launching their boat into the Susquehanna River from Shikellamy State Park on Friday.

The Mount Carmel couple and their friend Craig Clossen, of Ashland, came out to the park as they have for the last 20 years on the first day of boating season at the state park and Lake Augusta. The COVID-19 crisis created some uncertainty among state parks, but the boating season opened at a normal date in Northumberland County.

"This is one of the nicest state parks," said Anne Pappas. "We're glad they opened it. I wouldn't say we were nervous, just hopeful it would be opened for us."

Boating season on the Susquehanna River starts in May when the bags of the Adam T. Bower Memorial Dam are inflated, creating the 3,000-acre Lake Augusta. The season ends each September and the dam is lowered in early October.

The three pushed off the loading dock in a 21-foot Princecraft deck boat around 10:30 a.m. Friday and took a ride upriver to check out the construction of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway river bridge project. Along the way, they spotted ducks in the water, dozens of turtles on logs and fellow boaters, all before it started to drizzle.

"I like the fresh air, the wildlife, the geese and ducks, sometimes we have the turtle activity," said Robert Pappas. "When we're fishing, we have a large-mouth and small-mouth bass and catfish."

Robert and Anne Pappas said they are planning to move down to Florida for most of the year after this summer.

"This is like a vacation away from home," said Anne Pappas. "We really like that we can pull our boat up and dock it."

Bill Yeager, of New Bloomfield, has been traveling from Perry County for the last seven years to place his boat in the waters around the state park.

"It's just so nice up here," he said. "It's well kept, well maintained and the people are so nice. You couldn't ask for anything more."

Yeager said he wasn't worried about the park not re-opening in time for boating season. Yeager said he is eager to get outside and do something different other than staying home.

"As long as people stay their distance, even if we go to green," said Yeager. "People have to maintain distance or this stuff will come back with a vengeance."

Park Manager Nick Sherlock said there are 11 vacancies for boat slip permits.

Terry Brady, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spokesman, said the Shikellamy State Park since May 15 has had the office and one restroom per day-use area open. Pavilions are available on a first come first serve basis for groups under 25. Playgrounds, beaches, and pools remain closed statewide.

The second phase of yellow counties will open state park office and restrooms on Friday, he said.

"As far as restrictions we ask that visitors wear a mask and social distance, park offices that are open have an occupancy limit and ask that occupants wear masks," said Brady.

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