Coloradans can again explore the great outdoors throughout the state under updated coronavirus restrictions, but the executive director of the state's Department of Natural Resources said preparation and planning are critical.
"Pack like you're going to the moon," said Dan Gibbs in a teleconference with reporters Wednesday.
Gibbs outlined guidance for the state's new “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors,” which relaxes restrictions imposed in late March that prohibited residents from traveling farther than 10 miles from home for outdoor recreation.
The new order, issued Monday by Gov. Jared Polis, encourages Coloradans to enjoy the campgrounds, trails and other outdoor features anywhere in the state, but keeps in place social distancing and other recommendations meant to slow the spread of the virus.
“Colorado is blessed with millions of acres of accessible land — state, local, federal,” Polis said at a news conference. “And it is relatively safe to be away from others in the great outdoors in our beautiful June weather.”
Added Polis: "It may feel like we are getting back to normal, but the virus is still here, and it could surge back the moment we let our guard down. We are still far from normal."
Campgrounds at most state parks are now open but require advance reservations, Gibbs said. He noted that many private campgrounds are also open, as well as some on federal land.
Gibbs said residents should stock up at their local gas stations and grocery stores rather than planning on visiting those establishments at their destination, stressing that some facilities around the state won't be open. He also said it's important to check local fire bans, which vary from county to county.
"Please don't become a burden on local emergency services," he said, adding that anyone who is sick should stay home.
Gibbs said campers and hikers should regularly wash their hands, maintain 6-foot distances from those not in their party, and wear face masks when they're near others.
While its campgrounds have been closed since late March, Colorado was one of the few states to keep state parks open since pandemic-related restrictions went into effect, Gibbs said. In March, parks in the northeast region saw the number of visitors jump from 300,000 a year ago to 512,000 this year.
State officials plan to release updated guidance for other outdoor recreational activities, including commercial river-rafting, in the near future, Gibbs said.