Parking lots packed as outdoor enthusiasts seek to get into nature during stay-at-home orders

Full Parking Lot at Berthoud Pass
Posted at 8:46 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 22:46:05-04

DENVER — Though it might feel as though getting into nature is a form of social distancing, state officials are saying some activities might be adding to the problem.

"Came out here with the roommates and I’m trying to stay away from the crowds," said snowboarder Mark Mortenson in a packed parking lot at Berthoud Pass. "I mean, it’s just as bad as going to the grocery store. Wash hands, do everything you can, but all in all, you can only take so many precautions."

But recently, state officials are speaking out about overcrowding at access points to ski areas and nature trails. Though many of the areas are still open to the public, concern is growing over the number of people gathering in the entry spaces.

"It does concern us," explained Chris Arend of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. "You could be putting yourself in danger but you are also putting these local communities in danger and local search and rescue teams in danger as well."

It is not just COVID-19 that makes officials worried. At the end of the winter season, Colorado continues to accumulate snowfall. Avalanches have killed one person in Colorado this week and injured two others, putting further strain on emergency resources.

"If there is an avalanche we are going to call search and rescue," he said. "Those rescuers are going to have to prepare for COVID response and your search is going to take longer."

The draw of the mountains is strong in Colorado, but if we can all wait to go outside together, Arend explained, we will be back in nature very soon.

"You know, I would say I definitely understand. This is why we choose to live in Colorado and where we live," he said. "Once this COVID pandemic crisis is over then we can all get back out and enjoy these great areas."