Leaders Urge Community To Avoid Overcrowding County And City Parks As Coronavirus Restrictions Ease

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As Colorado Springs and El Paso County move into a safer-at-home model in line with state guidelines that eases some novel coronavirus-related restrictions, community officials are urging people to practice social distancing when using shared greenspaces. 

Karen Palus, the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director, said she encourages people to explore their own neighborhoods to avoid overcrowding popular parks.

"If you have to make your own parking spot," said Palus, "go somewhere else."

The director of El Paso County Community Services, Tim Wolken, said he's seen increased usage of parks and trailheads over the last six weeks, and anticipates the trend will continue as the weather warms up. He said he agreed with Palus on the importance of avoiding busy areas.

"Maybe don't go to the Paint Mines this weekend, but go to some site you've never been to before," said Wolken. "I think [you'll] find it to be very enjoyable, probably less people, and that helps everybody."

Susan Davies heads the Trails and Open Space Coalition. The coalition has aggregated suggestions for new parks and greenspaces to explore with their "Get Out, Spread Out" initiative. The organization has a guide of walks, bike rides and neighborhood parks around the region for people to visit. She said it's a privilege that so many parks are open and accessible.

"I think it's really important for people to realize how lucky we are that our leaders at the county and city level have tried to keep as much open as possible," said Davies. "And with that comes a modicum of responsibility."

In Colorado Springs, Palus said it's been challenging to enforce compliance with social distancing guidelines for people using courts and fields for team sports. She said the city is now installing signs around those areas to remind guests not to share equipment and to keep groups to less than ten people.

Local safer-at-home guidelines are expected to last through May 26, according to the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department. These guidelines still prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.

Playgrounds, park visitor centers, community centers and the pickleball courts at Monument Valley Park will remain closed. The department is collaborating with public health officials to see whether summer sports and outdoor swimming areas can open in the next few months. 

Wolken said some county park visitor centers and bathrooms are expected to slowly reopen starting next week. Visitor centers will be limited to no more than 10 guests at a time. He said the county plans to reopen Rainbow Falls Historic Site on May 9.