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With an increased demand being seen on local trails, area open space agencies are again asking people, like this man at Boulder’s Chautauqua Park, to recreate responsibly close to home, or risk seeing additional closures of some destinations to protect the landscape and to preserve one of the region’s most prized resources.
With an increased demand being seen on local trails, area open space agencies are again asking people, like this man at Boulder’s Chautauqua Park, to recreate responsibly close to home, or risk seeing additional closures of some destinations to protect the landscape and to preserve one of the region’s most prized resources.
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With an increased demand being seen on local trails, Boulder-area open space agencies are again asking people to recreate responsibly close to home, or risk seeing additional closures of some destinations to protect the landscape and to preserve one of the region’s most prized resources.

Boulder County Parks and Open Space and Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks are seeing instances of trail and natural resource damage as visitation to area public lands has increased over the last month, despite the state’s stay-at-home order, which was downscaled for much of Colorado on Monday but remains in place locally until May 9.

Those agencies, joined in appealing to the public by Denver and Jefferson County open space officials, said in a news release that in recent weeks, many hikers have walked off designated trails and have created unmaintained “social” trails that can reduce or fragment large habitat areas many wildlife species need to thrive. The agencies ask all visitors to stay on designated trails.

Heavy use of area trails, according to a news release, is leading to trail widening and plant damage by visitors walking around muddy trail areas. Once again, officials are advising hikers to “keep off the grass and get muddy” and stay in the middle of muddy trails if no one else is around. If visitors need to maintain physical distance on narrow trails, they should step onto a rock or a bare spot — if possible —  to let others pass, then step back on the trail. They should avoid stepping on vegetation and politely announce themselves if they need to pass others.

Another issue, according to a news release, is that open space rangers are encountering more people in wildlife closures and other sensitive closed areas, which can cause significant disturbances to local wildlife. The public is reminded to stay out of wildlife closure areas and properties closed to the public, which are marked with signs. Rangers are strictly enforcing those closures.

Additional measures people are asked to follow on local trails include:

  • Wear a face mask and maintain six feet of distance from others.
  • Stay as close to home as possible and to avoid unnecessary travel.
  • If visitors encounter a full or crowded area, they should move on to another area.
  • Park only in designated parking areas.
  • Visit open space areas in groups of four or fewer people. Larger groups can impede traffic on area trails and make it difficult for people to maintain social distance.
  • Know their limits and not take any risks to help protect first responders.

High visitation is expected to continue as the weather improves, and declining tax revenue is also likely to decrease overall open space maintenance efforts. And, while the open space agencies have instituted several management actions to address crowding, such as temporary closures at crowded trailheads and full parking lots, they may be forced to implement additional closures to mitigate trail and natural resource damage.

Gov. Jared Polis’s newly enacted Safer At Home order instructs Coloradans to limit their recreational travel to within 10 miles of their homes.

Boulder County Parks and Open Space spokesperson Vivienne Jannatpour said the county is not specifically mandating that.

“We have always been saying, recreate as close to home as possible. We are still consistent with that, but we have not put any numbers around that,” Jannatpour said. “There is the issue of enforcement. How do you know where someone is coming from, without some kind of checkpoint?”

Jannatpour characterized the county’s close-to-home guidance as “a strong suggestion.”

“As open space managers, we’re begging people,” she said, “to support not only the trails, but also their neighbors, too. It translates to the first responders who are having to become parking managers, to a large extent. So the more people who can recreate close to home, it alleviates a lot of things like parking, and auto accidents.”

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