Rocky Mountain National Park closes to all visitors
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments.
Rocky Mountain National Park announced that no access would be permitted to the park as of 7 p.m. Friday.
The park will be closed to all visitors until further notice at the request of the local health department due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While outdoor recreation has been outlined as a way to stay active during this social isolation period, the communities surrounding popular recreation areas are trying to limit the number of vacationers.
“Please realize that small mountain communities are not a safe haven from COVID-19 and we have very limited resources and supplies,” Grand County Public Health warned. “We have only three small emergency departments and only two major grocery providers for the 15,000 permanent residents living here.”
The announcement came the same day Estes Park’s mayor sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior asking that the park be closed. Up until the closure, Rocky Mountain and all national parks had waived fees amidst the pandemic as a way to encourage isolated recreation.
“The Department of Interior’s current promotions are driving visitors to parks and communities like Estes Park,” Estes Park Mayor Todd Jirsa said in his letter. “This increase in visitation is compounded by spring break travel and the recent closure of ski resorts elsewhere in our state.”
Similar to Grand County, Jirsa highlighted the older, high-risk populations of retirees and limited critical resources in Estes Park.
“Medical and emergency services, as well as basic supplies like groceries must be available to meet the needs of our community at this time,” Jirsa said. “Estes Park is not in a position to support the potential needs of extra guests at this time.”
Last year, Rocky Mountain National Park saw record numbers with a total of 4.67 million visitors to the park. Almost 307,000 of those visits occurred in March and April. As of January and February of this year, the park had already seen over 255,000 visits, up 17% from the same time last year.
Park officials encouraged visitors to take advantage of the many digital tools available to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Go to http://www.nps.gov/romo to learn about park resources and stories through multimedia presentations.
Officials will notify the public when the park resumes full operations.
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