EL PASO COUNTY — Warm days and the shift to Safer at Home rules are the reason for a reminder that COVID-19 prevention measures remain active at local parks and opens spaces in Southern Colorado. “Wear a mask, six-foot distance is helpful, not gathering in large groups,” said Tim Wolken with El Paso County. The message comes jointly from Colorado Springs and El Paso County parks leaders, along with outdoor advocates from the Trails and Open Space Coalition.
The benefits of exercise and anxiety relief are among the top reasons local parks and open spaces have been accessible through stay at home orders. "It's nice to get out and stretch your legs, get on the trails and ride our bikes," said Melanie Gimbal who was at Bear Creek Park with her son. She says getting outside happens daily for her family.
Everyone enjoying the get outside option, is also supposed to avoid crowding. "There are mayors and governors all over the county that are banning use of parks and trails. We don't want that here," said Trails and Opens Space Coalition, Executive Director, Susan Davies.
In recent weeks some of the most popular parks are not just crowded, they are too crowded. Parking lots offer the evidence. At open spaces like Stratton Meadows and Cheyenne Canon, parking lots are overflowing and drivers are leaving cars in no parking areas. "If you have to make your own space please find some other place to recreate," said Colorado Springs Parks Director, Karen Palus. In recent days police ticketed cars parking along the narrow road in Cheyenne Canon. Beyond COVID crowding, it is a safety hazard for other cars and causes access issues for emergency responders.
"Visit one of our other 199 parks out there.” Palus says there is no reason for crowding at local parks. The responsible thing to do when finding a busy park is opting for another location.
"It really isn't enough to stand up here and say don't, don't, don't,” said Davies. “We have to give people alternatives.” Her non-profit Trails and Open Space Coalition has created the on-line resourceGet Out Spread Out.” It shows local lesser known and likely less crowded places to recreate outside.