park

In summers past, the sand volleyball courts at Town Park have been a source of much amusement. Currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, park staff is awaiting CDC guidance before reopening them. (Courtesy photo)

As Telluride heads into the summer season, traditionally kicked off by the long Memorial Day weekend, it’s clear that this summer will look drastically different from any year in the past several decades. Though there will be no Mountainfilm picnics or crowds of Bluegrass Festival revelers, Telluride Town Park remains an inviting expanse of emerald grass for lounging with friends, tossing a Frisbee and other athletic pursuits.

But will there be swim lessons at the new pool facilities? Raucous softball championships? Rousing games of post-work beach volleyball? The short answer is, officials aren’t sure yet.

“At this point, we are awaiting guidance from the state and county on whether pool operations and team sports activities are compatible with anticipated future public health regulations,” said Stephanie Jaquet, Telluride parks and recreation director. “Parks and rec staff is actively working on new facility protocols that reduce the chance of transmission of COVID-19.”

Currently, park goers are welcome to enjoy the park’s fields, and the basketball, tennis and pickleball courts as individuals or with same-household members, and pool restrooms and showers are open daily between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Skate parks, the river trail and town’s pocket parks are also open for use. Meanwhile, all town-organized recreational activities, playgrounds, the pavilion, warming hut and restrooms, community room, picnic areas, volleyball courts, campgrounds, and drinking fountains will remain closed until further notice.

As the days grow longer and warmer, and May melts into June, park staff expects to see an increase in park use and encourage those enjoying the park to abide by physical-distancing guidelines.

“A combination of warm sunny weather, school being out and the approaching holiday weekend has resulted in increased numbers of people using Town Park,” Jaquet said. “I encourage people to respect facility closures and to do their part to use the open facilities in a way that respects each other and public health guidance,” emphasizing the importance of refraining from using any park facilities if exhibiting symptoms and to follow CDC guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during the use of facilities.

Though San Miguel County remains under the safer-at-home public health order through May 31 and has not yet begun welcoming visitors back to the box canyon, the holiday weekend may see an increase in tourists and non-resident second homeowners.

County public information officer Susan Lilly noted that those who do choose to visit are still obligated to self-isolate.

“County orders, which are in effect until May 31, have not been amended to allow visitors,” she said. “Non-resident second homeowners are to follow public orders mandating 14-day quarantine upon arrival,” though she acknowledged, “We realize there is not 100 percent compliance on this.”

Lilly added that despite the attraction of outdoor activities during a sunny Memorial Day weekend, individuals should remain vigilant in doing their part to keep the virus at bay in the county.

“Whether it’s Town Park or any outdoor activities, please remember to keep group sizes limited to less than 10 people, maintain physical distancing and wear facemasks if you are in small group settings,” she said, adding best practices include frequent hand-washing and the avoidance of touching high-use public surfaces and objects when possible. “We hope everyone enjoys a safe holiday weekend. With best practices in place, it’s reasonable to have small gatherings to celebrate the holiday weekend.”

Grace Franklin, county public health director, agreed that residents can and should enjoy their summer with activities such as barbecues, camping trips and hikes, but should modify their excursions to include best practices. She recommends carrying a “COVID-to-go” kit when traveling containing disinfecting wipes, gloves, masks and sanitizer, hosting any small gatherings outdoors, and taking extra precautions if spending time with high-risk family members.

Jaquet recognized the importance of Town Park and town programs, and thanked the community for its patience and understanding as park staff work to provide park access safely.

“Parks and rec staff understands the importance of facilities and programming for the health and wellbeing of our community,” she said. “We are working on a phased approach to reopening facilities and programming in a way that keeps the public safe while recreating.”