Park rangers, sheriff deputies to enforce rolling closures of Jeffco open space parks at capacity

Big crowds, potentially unsafe behavior reported
Posted at 11:03 PM, Apr 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-12 16:32:50-04

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- Park rangers and sheriff deputies are now enforcing rolling closures of open space parks that are at capacity in Jefferson County.

Some of those parks have seen a big jump in visitors, who have either lost jobs, or are growing weary of the governor's stay-at-home order.

"I think the outdoors are the only refuge we have right now," said Kirk Magnuson, while visiting Lair o' the Bear Park west of Morrison. "Being able to spend time outside gets everyone out and feeling more relaxed during the pandemic."

"We understand that people love to get outdoors, but we want them to protect themselves, and protect others while they're doing so," said Matt Robbins, the community connections manager at Jefferson County Open Space.

Robbins told Denver7 that along with more traffic, and bigger crowds, park rangers are seeing more potentially dangerous behavior. He said some people are congregating in large groups, some are not maintaining six foot buffers and some are not wearing face masks.

It's the same in Boulder County.

In a letter to the community, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, Public Health Exec. Dir. Jeff Zayach, Public Works Director Jeff Maxwell, and Parks & Open Space Director Eric Lane said, "First and foremost, do no leave your home unless you absolutely need to. This is especially important if your are sick. Until Colorado lifts it's stay-at-home order, we need everyone to practice social distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19."

Robbins said anyone who doesn't feel well shouldn't be outside.

"Don't come outdoors thinking that fresh air is going to do you well," he said. "You need to stay at home because you don't really know what you have."

On Saturday afternoon, a Denver7 news crew saw several park visitors walking around Lair o' the Bear Park without face masks.

Whitney Jones was among them.

She said she wears masks in crowded venues, like grocery stores, but not always in the outdoors.

"Out here," she said, "I think we are a little more lenient because we stay away from people."

Melanie Williams and her friends were wearing masks.

"I think it's better safe than sorry," Williams said.

When asked if she was concerned that many others weren't, she replied, "I don't really worry about others not wearing them because I'm wearing one, so if they have a droplet, I won't get it."

In a news release, Jeffco Open Space said everyone should wear a cloth face covering and stay six feet away from others who are not in their household.

Regarding the large crowds, Robbins said if the parking lot is full, people should head elsewhere.

"If you show up at a trailhead, and the trailhead is busy, it's likely that the trails are busy as well. Is that an environment that you want to put yourself and your family in," he asked.

Both Jefferson and Boulder Counties said they want to keep open space parks open, but they need everyone's cooperation to do so.

Park visitors told Denver7 they don't want to see any closures.

"If they do decide to close down some parks, I don't think that will be best for the people," said Joseph Iacono. "I think it's going to make some people go outside and say, 'screw it. I'm just going to take the ticket and hell -- they can't catch everybody.'"