For the second time in a week, officials have extended a ban on camping at Colorado's state parks because of the coronavirus pandemic — this time "until further notice."
While parks remain open, campgrounds, picnic areas and other facilities at Colorado's state parks and wildlife areas have been closed since March 26 and will remain closed indefinitely, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced on May 5. That announcement followed an earlier order that had extended the ban through May 4.
"We understand the strain these continued closures put on all of us, and we appreciate the public’s flexibility as we work through the process of reopening," CPW director Dan Prenzlow said in a statement. "Our staff is working hard to make sure we can provide safe and enjoyable experiences for everyone."
The closure applies to all camping facilities at Colorado's 42 state parks, including cabins and yurts, as well as picnic areas and playgrounds. Campers who made reservations through May 11 will receive a full refund, and reservations through the end of the year can be changed at no additional cost.
As they develop a plan to reopen during a "very uncertain time," CPW officials are warning Coloradans not to set any future travel plans in stone.
"CPW is working with federal and local municipal partners as well as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to determine a timeline for camping," the agency says. "This coordination can make predicting definitive opening dates difficult, as each county faces its own unique circumstances."
Amid a nationwide debate about reopening businesses, restaurants and other venues, the National Park Service has begun a "phased" reopening of its system, with restrictions being lifted on a park-by-park basis. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park will begin to gradually reopen "within the next two weeks," NPS officials said on April 30, while Rocky Mountain National Park hasn't announced any reopening plans yet.
Many Colorado mountain towns, which were hard-hit in the early stages of the outbreak and rely on under-resourced rural hospital systems, have asked — and in some cases, ordered — visitors to stay away. Governor Jared Polis's safer-at-home order, which loosened many of the state's strictest social-distancing requirements when it was issued on April 26, instructs Coloradans not to travel more than ten miles for outdoor recreation.
"Local authorities are encouraged to determine the best course of action to encourage maximum compliance," says the order, which is in effect until at least May 27 (two days after the Memorial Day holiday). "Failure to comply with this order could result in penalties, including jail time and fines.”
With the weather improving and many Coloradans anxious to get out and enjoy the outdoors, CPW is urging visitors to parks and wildlife areas to use caution.
"Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds anglers, hunters and all other outdoor recreationists that it is your responsibility to research and understand the specific guidance, ordinances and restrictions in place for any planned local recreation," the agency says. "Know before you go."