Colorado will celebrate Public Lands Day on May 16 this year. Established in 2016, the holiday recognizes the ways in which public lands are central to Colorado’s economy and quality of life.
As COVID-19 continues to impact Colorado’s mountain communities and recreation-based economies, local, state and federal governments and land management agencies are asking people to utilize public lands responsibly.
Some mountain counties across Colorado have enacted public health orders restricting travel to reduce the spread of the virus; state and federal public land management agencies have also closed developed recreation sites to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Though state parks remained open throughout the stay-at-home order, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) closed all picnic areas, campgrounds and other such facilities. This included picnic areas and campgrounds within Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.
CPW began reopening camping sites on May 12. The phased reopening process will be implemented in coordination with local counties and will take into account any local restrictions that are in place.
All non-campground outdoor areas of state parks, including trails, boat ramps, marinas and shorelines remain open. Park rangers remain on duty protecting the parks and normal rules and regulations, including the need for a valid daily or annual park pass, apply. CPW visitor centers, service centers and offices remain staffed, but are restricting access to the public.
U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Rocky Mountain Region, including national forests and grasslands across Colorado, has also implemented changes to recreation facilities and activities to minimize the impact and spread of COVID-19.
Developed recreation sites within the region, including campgrounds and day-use areas, are temporarily closed. Dispersed camping, hiking and activities are allowed, although discouraged. Parking facilities, trails and trailheads remain open.
Fire restrictions are also in effect in many areas. The agency hopes fire restrictions will prevent the need for fire and medical resources in response to unwanted human-caused wildfires.
USFS encourages forest and grassland visitors camping in dispersed recreation sites, hiking or embarking on river activities to obey fire restrictions and recreate safely and responsibly.
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands remain open to visitors to enjoy in a safe and responsible manner. BLM asks individuals to only visit areas close to home and avoid popular or crowded locations where social distancing may be difficult. Fees for overnight camping, cabin rentals, day use and use of special areas will remain in effect and existing rules and regulations apply.
BLM urges visitors to do their part when visiting public lands as some visitor services may be limited due to limited staff availability. The agency recommends individuals to:
— Bring supplies such as disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
— Pack out trash.
— Reduce the handling of cash by paying recreation fees through recreation.gov or with a check, where available.
— Take personal responsibility to follow social distancing rules on BLM public lands.
National Park Service
Where it is possible to adhere to federal, state and local public health guidance, outdoor spaces managed by the National Park Service (NPS) will remain accessible to the public and entrance-fee free. Visitor services such as visitor centers are generally closed. However, NPS is working to gradually increase access and services across all units of the National Park System alongside state and local officials. Park rangers remain on duty protecting the parks; normal rules and regulations continue to apply.