Updated: Grand Lake cancels Fourth of July fireworks
Editor’s note: This report has been updated with additional information from Monday’s board meeting.
Facing pressure from county officials carrying forward new state guidelines, the Grand Lake Board of Trustees decided 4-3 on Monday to cancel the town’s Fourth of July fireworks show.
Until Monday, the board had been unwilling to call off the show, though the possibility had come up on multiple occasions since May.
Objecting to the cancellation, some board members cited unequal enforcement of social distancing rules and questioned why other fireworks shows and large scale celebrations in Colorado have been given a green light when Grand Lake is being told no.
“Where, I ask, is the equity in all of this?” said Trustee Ernie Bjorkman, who was hopeful of finding a way to save the show. “It’s time for all of us to be responsible. The virus isn’t going away. If you don’t want to show up for the fireworks, you don’t have to.”
However, a significant portion of Monday’s discussion also focused on the large crowds Grand Lake has already seen this summer and what could happen if a town sponsored event went against the state and county’s public health orders.
During those talks, Grand Lake officials voiced concerns about fireworks causing a spike in COVID-19 cases that costs Grand County its state-approved variance, and they didn’t want an event put on by the town to be responsible for it.
“Of course, I want the fireworks,” Trustee Cindy Southway said as she tried to argue the repercussions would outweigh any benefits.
The possibility of canceling the Fourth of July fireworks came up before the board in May, when a survey showed support for keeping the show and a proposal to cancel died without a motion. On June 6, the discussion continued as mounting concerns led the trustees to a vote, though they again decided to keep Grand Lake’s plans intact.
Coming into Monday’s meeting, Grand Lake had been given a directive: Either enforce social distancing protocols — that means keeping people inside their cars and ensuring that the vehicles are parked spaced at least 6 feet apart — or risk running afoul state and local public health orders.
Addressing the board on Monday, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said enforcement would mean closing off the town’s most popular public spaces, not just the beachfront, well in advance of the fireworks so authorities wouldn’t have to push people out when the time came. There seemed to be few solutions for the board within those parameters.
Compared to other towns, Grand Lake held out longer than most, but the state’s seventh amended public health order, released on Thursday and carried forward locally by Grand County Public Health, put new limits on fireworks displays to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
One of the rules would have kept viewers inside their cars. That might be more feasible on the Eastern Plains, where it’s flat, but doing so seemed highly unlikely in Grand Lake given the town’s mountainous geography and best viewing locations being on the waterfront.
On Friday, county officials also told the newspaper they fear COVID-19 relief funding could be at risk if Grand County’s towns openly flout public health orders.
“What we’re concerned about as a county right now is there’s so much of that CARES Act funding and stuff like that coming through the state, and they’ve been very clear in every one of their public health orders that any county that doesn’t obey public health orders may be losing funding,” said Brad White, incident commander for the COVID-19 response team.
He referenced the $1.3 million the county has secured through the CARES Act, along with other relief funds that he thinks could make their way to Grand County businesses.
“We don’t want to show the state we don’t care about their rules because that in turn tells them that we don’t care about their money,” White said.
Unwilling to go against the state and county, a slim majority of Grand Lake’s board called off the fireworks the town had tried to keep.
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