COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs Parks managers just added another tool to help locals use good judgment while going to parks and open spaces during COVID-19 restrictions. "We're attempting to gauge the crowding at our trail heads and our parking lots," Regional Parks, Trails and Open Space Manager Scott Abbott. The information is then conveyed on the website HealthyParks.CO
A visit to parks is allowed under Colorado’s stay-at-home order. The intent is to promote physical and mental health during a challenging situation. "We are seeing an uptick in visitation to our parks,” said Abbott.
The high number of users show up with different comfort levels and opinions on social distancing and whether masks are necessary. Those concerns can heighten when a lot of people crowd single track trails in an open space.
Parks leaders continue to push an education and good neighbor policy, rather than heavy handed enforcement. There is signage, public service messaging, and support from open space advocacy groups. It all points to CDC guidelines for social distancing.
Now, HealthyParks.CO brings another information resource. "So people can go to that website, say before they leave on their adventure and maybe make a better decision on where they want to go," said Abbott. Two to three times a day, rangers assess parking lots for crowding. The information is then conveyed in a green thumb-up, red thumb-down format on the website.
The red thumb-down advises that an open space is very crowded. Abbot says rather than perceiving it as a negative, users can take it as a suggestion to find a less crowded open space to enjoy. "It's going to help people maybe make a decision on a park they haven't been to before, that may not be as crowded. So that's what we're looking forward to, is helping people spread out."
The system is not exact. Rangers do assessments several times a day, but they are not watching parks minute by minute. The suggestion is using the website as one tool for planning outdoor activity.