Despite beach bash, Pitkin County open space distancing good

A group of floaters head down the North Star Nature Preserve in a prior summer.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

While the beach at the North Star Nature Preserve looked more like a Spring Break bash earlier this month, open space rangers are seeing good social distancing compliance on area trails, an official said this week.

In fact, even though the North Star beach was packed the first weekend of May, and boaters also reverted to their scofflaw parking days of a few years ago at the Wildwood put-in, they listened the next weekend when rangers posted signs to try and correct the behavior, said Gary Tennenbaum, Pitkin County open space and trails director.

“Our rangers were pleasantly surprised,” he told county commissioners Tuesday. “The parking was much better at the put-in and the takeout.”

Beach-goers also appeared to comply last weekend with the group size limit of 10 people, Tennenbaum said.

“I was really happy,” he said Friday. “It was great to see the public respond in a positive way.”

Had the public not complied with social distancing guidelines, Tennenbaum said he was considering bringing the issue to commissioners for guidance.

“They might have had to react to close it,” he said.

The issue is important because several local areas are opening this weekend — including Sky Mountain Park — and officials want trail users to continue to take social distancing seriously.

“This weekend will be big,” Tennenbaum said. “There are going to be people on the trails.”

If the lots are full at the Glassier Trail in Basalt, which also opens this weekend, or the Bullpen near Crown Mountain Park, “have a plan B,” he said. Parking at the Brush Creek Intercept Lot or Town Park in Snowmass are two good options to avoid crowds at trailheads, he said.

In addition, rangers are seeing “a big uptick” in the number of out-of-town visitors on local trails, Tennenbaum said.

“It’s easy to tell when they ask, ‘Where does this trail take me?’” he said.

For the most part, however, rangers have not seen large groups and have seen local trail users respect social distancing limits.

“People are trying to get out of the way for each other,” Tennenbaum said.

The one thing rangers haven’t seen people using much are face coverings, he said. People have masks around their necks, but most are not pulling them up around their mouths and noses.

That, in fact, complies with Pitkin County’s public health order, said Jordana Sabella with Pitkin County Public Health. People do not have to wear masks outside and while exercising unless they will be within 6 feet of someone else for more than 10 minutes, she said.

Both Tennenbaum and Sabella, however, said face coverings and masks should become akin to a wallet or phone that you probably won’t want to leave home without.

“If you’re going out, just stick a mask in your pocket,” Sabella said. “Same with playing golf.”

You never know what might happen — someone could need assistance on the trail — or you might run into a friend and want to chat, they said.

Commissioner Greg Poschman appealed to residents to observe social distancing requirements for the near future.

“If they continue to do that, the trails and place will stay open,” he said.

Other trails opening this weekend include Seven Star and North Rim, which are considered part of Sky Mountain, but are on the other side of Brush Creek Road. Tom Blake, Anaerobic Nightmare and Government trails remain closed.

Also, Red Hill Trail in Carbondale will close Monday for a four-to-six week parking lot and road improvement project that cannot be accomplished without closing the trail, Tennenbaum said.

“Basically, get your fix at Red Hill this weekend,” he said.

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