Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, looms. It’s not going to resemble any of those that have come before in the recent memories of Boulder County residents.
No Bolder Boulder, with the 10K road race that typically draws close to 50,000 people having been moved to Labor Day. No Boulder Creek Festival, also shifted to later this summer. Rocky Mountain National Park remains closed, with a phased reopening set to launch Wednesday.
Even heading out for a hike on one of the area’s many popular trails, while permissible, is not going to be nearly as easy as that sounds.
A good weekend, maybe for an intimate barbecue or filling up the wading pool in the backyard and just calling it good.
Officials on Thursday began a campaign of reminding the public of dos and don’ts for the holiday weekend. It certainly seems there’s more of the latter than the former.
“We understand it is really hard,” said Chana Goussetis, spokesperson for Boulder County Public Health. “We all want to get out and go to the mountains and go to the water and hang out with our friends. But we’re not there, yet.”
With Boulder County being such a strongly outdoors-oriented community, much of the gathering that has taken place has been on area trails, and also along Boulder Creek. A hard partying scene just west of Eben G. Fine Park early this week led authorities to impose a closure of all park land and the creek bed north of the Boulder Creek Path from the eastern boundary of the park to the western edge of the city.
“We are really having a hard time getting people to follow the rules and regulations that would keep them safe,” said Boulder County Parks and Open Space spokesperson Vivienne Jannatpour. “That is something we would like to see happen more.”
In that spirit, Boulder County and the city of Boulder joined on Thursday in issuing a news release reminding the public that parking at Flagstaff Mountain and the Hessie Trailhead near Nederland remains severely limited due to the high number of visitors.
As an example of the situation that crowding at some destinations has created, more than 225 cars have been turned away each recent weekend day at the Hessie Trailhead checkpoint located at the intersection of County Road 140 and County Road 130 west of Nederland, after the limited parking lot was filled.
People who choose to recreate in those areas over this weekend should not expect to find a parking spot, and should consider recreating as close to home as possible. Boulder officials advise visitors that Flagstaff Mountain Summit Road is currently closed.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office typically has two deputies policing its mountain territory on weekends. This weekend, there will be an additional four. One of those four will be assigned to the Hessie Trailhead, while the other three will roving throughout the area, according to Sheriff’s Cmdr. Lance Enholm.
On top of that, with the boating season starting at Gross Reservoir, there will be another deputy assigned there, plus two sheriff’s rangers.
“I’m concerned, because all those traditional Memorial Day festivities, the Bolder Boulder, and the Boulder Creek Fest, none of those are taking place,” Enholm said. “I would hope that people try and recreate close to home, or hit it at the off-peak times.”
Boulder followed up on the joint release with the county in a late afternoon news release that reminded residents and visitors of the ongoing safer-at-home protocol, the county’s mandate requiring facial coverings when social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained and the city’s order requiring individuals visiting open businesses to wear a facial covering while inside.
The city’s release also announced that the Park-to-Park shuttle will begin service to Chautauqua on Saturday, with safety measures in place to prevent community spread of the coronavirus. Those include using larger buses to allow distancing, only allowing ten riders per vehicle and requiring them to wear facial coverings. The shuttle will run every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on summer weekends and holidays.
The release also noted the Boulder Reservoir will be open on a limited basis to boat and small watercraft permit holders and those who have reservations with Rocky Mountain Paddle Board. The swim beach is closed, as is the rest of the south shore. While the north shore remains open to hikers, runners and cyclists, the parking lots at the Coot Lake and 55th Street trailheads will be closed to address illegal parking, illegal boat launching and violations of wildlife closures, and to limit the potential for large groups.
With the exception of the creek area near Eben G. Fine Park, all city parks will be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sports courts, disc golf courses and the Valmont Bike Park also will be open, provided visitors follow posted safer-at-home guidelines.
The guiding principles the public is asked to follow are that people limit their gatherings to no more than 10 people at a time if they are in a public space, and that they travel for recreation no more than 10 miles from home.
“And that doesn’t mean gathering with 10 groups of 10 people,” said Goussetis, cautioning this is not the time to be greatly expanding one’s social circle.
“The more who gather, the more likely that people are going to get sick,” she said.
Those who do make it all the way to an actual trail or public open space are reminded to always bring a face covering, which is required wear for anyone over 12, anytime they are not able to maintain a distance of six feet, both at trailheads and when passing one another on trails.
It is also suggested that people visit open space areas in groups of four or fewer people, since larger groups can crowd the traffic on trails and make physical distancing harder to achieve. Also, picnic tables and shelters are closed.
The city and county are also asking that people adhere to dog regulations — including leash laws — for specific trails.
“A lot of that is for the safety of the dogs, as well,” Jannatpour said. “We’re starting to hear reports of dogs getting giardia. And we’re going to have the same problems that we have had before with the blue-green algae, which is toxic to dogs.
“And, rattlesnakes are out.”
Those trying to keep a lid on social distancing this weekend may get a break from Mother Nature, in that the National Weather Service is forecasting a high of just 63 and a 60% chance of showers in the afternoon on Sunday. On Monday, forecasters are calling for slightly warmer conditions, with a high of 69 with a chance of showers and thunderstorms later in the day.