Memorial Day weekend visitors not deterred by pandemic
With cars lined up at trailheads and some retailers seeing more customers than in past years, Grand County’s Memorial Day weekend crowds didn’t seem too dampened by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or the county’s safer at home orders.
Currently, Grand County businesses are only open on a limited basis, allowing in-person shopping with restrictions, personal services and takeout and delivery dining options. Short-term lodging is still prohibited, campgrounds remain closed and gatherings aren’t supposed to include over 10 people.
The semi-open nature of the county has led to increased visitor traffic this holiday weekend, Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said.
“(Our call volume) has definitely significantly increased for the weekend,” Schroetlin said. “It’s been different types of calls than we would normally receive on Memorial Day weekend.”
Aside from the typical rise in traffic calls that comes with more cars on the road, Schroetlin said his deputies responded to a number of visitors camping on private property or in an inappropriate area. Calls about camp fires also jumped this weekend.
As for public health order violations, Schroetlin said his office has not had to write any summons, but has responded to some complaints about social distancing and face mask usage.
“With a lot of the campgrounds being closed, people get up here and they try to find other places,” he said. “I think a lot of it is, it’s very confusing for people right now. The state says one thing, but some counties have received variances, Grand County still hasn’t received a variance yet, so it’s hard to message the rules.”
Local businesses report similarly, noting few problems with compliance from customers following store precautions. Jim Peterson, store manager for Christy Sports in Winter Park, said despite the extra measures required, his shop has seen plenty of customers stop in.
“We’ve been busier than every non-COVID Memorial Day weekend,” Peterson said. “We’re getting quite a few calls from people in Denver who want to buy a bike, but can’t find one and they’re willing to drive up to the mountains.”
Peterson said he’s seen a huge demand for bikes and mant boutique brand bike purchases this weekend.
On Saturday, trailheads across Grand County saw eager recreators descend, including Vasquez Road in Winter Park and Monarch Lake outside Granby.
In Grand Lake, Marilou Randall, co-owner of Never Summer Mountain Products, said this year’s holiday weekend is holding its own in comparison to the past.
“People are making the best of it,” she said. “I’ve probably had busier Memorial Days, but the customers I am getting in are more than happy to actually get out, shop again and there’s some sense of normal again.”
Randall noted that some of her most popular items this weekend have been neck buffs, which can be used as masks, and, once the rain rolled in, on-sale winter apparel. Sunday’s clouds and rain-snow combo did drive away some of the crowd, she said, but not as much as expected.
“(Saturday) was such a nice day in Grand Lake … there were just people everywhere, ice cream and kids on bikes,” Randall said. “With the rain I thought we weren’t going to get much of anything … but that’s not been the case. People are out and about.”
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An explosion of short-term rentals, along with hundreds of violations related to the properties, has Grand County commissioners considering a moratorium on new licenses, as well as stricter policies and enforcement.