COVID-19: Golden Closes Clear Creek to Prevent July 4 Virus Fest

Visitors to the Clear Creek Trail in Golden in late June.
Visitors to the Clear Creek Trail in Golden in late June. YouTube
Prior to the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Golden officials have announced the indefinite closure of access to Clear Creek within city limits, in an effort to prevent the sort of COVID-19 public-health nightmare experienced by Boulder. On May 20, authorities blocked off popular routes to Boulder Creek following a big, largely mask-free gathering caught on video, yet still experienced a worrisome spike in cases of the novel coronavirus thanks largely to additional parties celebrating graduations and Memorial Day.

Golden City Manager Jason Slowinski worried about a similar scenario in his own community. "Last weekend’s crowds along the creek gave us deep concern in seeing large gatherings, no social distancing, and very few people wearing masks," he said in a statement issued July 1. "The July 4th holiday weekend typically brings even bigger crowds to Golden. With the rise in COVID-19 cases in neighboring states where many visitors come from, we want to make sure we are not adding to the problem here in Colorado."

Clear Creek Trail through Golden is indeed a great place for recreation, which is why we gave it a Best of Denver award for Best Urban Walk in 2019. But since the rise of COVID-19, the trail hasn't exactly been a model of proper pandemic-era etiquette. After a March 21 visit there, we reported on social-distancing fails at the spot, noting that facial coverings were rarely used even when individuals were within six feet of each other.

Since then, studies have found that such actions lead to fewer infections if people are outdoors as opposed to inside — but these benefits have their limits, as demonstrated by the viral boosts in Boulder.

With that in mind, Golden will shut down streets near the creek for everyone other than residents and put up temporary fencing at access points. However, the trail itself will still be accessible because, says Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg in a statement of her own, "We want everyone to be able to enjoy all the things Golden has to offer." She adds: "This was a difficult decision for us to make, but in these unprecedented times, we have to do what we believe is best for the health of our community."

In the meantime, Slowinski will post an administrative order later today requiring masks to be worn on public property in Golden. The city council also plans a special session on Wednesday, July 8, to consider an emergency ordinance mandating the use of facial coverings that could expand on recommendations currently in place. Councilmember JJ Trout contends that "masks give the ability for folks to continue to be able to go to businesses, to hopefully once again enjoy the creek, all while protecting each other."

The creek will stay closed "until further notice," the city stresses — though the subject of safe ways to recreate will be debated at the Golden City Council's regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, July 9. Don't be surprised if other municipalities take similar steps in the coming days.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts