Encouraging sign: Rocky Mountain to reopen May 27

Rocky Mountain National Park announced yesterday that they will begin a phased reopening starting on May 27. The press release is here.

Most relevant to this readership, backcountry camping will be permitted right away, and will continue through the fall as normal.

Even though Rocky is a National Park, the release points out that under Colorado’s current “Safer at Home” policy, travel more than ten miles from your home and/or into the mountain towns is discouraged. The opening of the park seems inconsistent with this safer-at-home order, which makes me wonder: Do NPS officials foolishly believe that non-locals won’t visit the park, or does the reopening align with the expected expiry of the 10-mile recommendation (which seems untenable for much longer since our high country will open up next month or summer recreation)?

Rocky is the third most visited unit (with 4.5 million visitors, behind only the Smokes and Grand Canyon); it’s one-tenth the size of Yellowstone; and two small towns on its east and west sides serve as its main access points. I’m uncertain how NPS solved for social distancing requirements and addressed concerns about medical care in rural areas, but I’m going to assume that officials in DC and in both Larimer and Grand counties signed off on it.

It’s an especially encouraging sign that Rocky has scheduled a reopen date, and I hope that other parks will soon follow. The park experience needs to be different in 2020 to accommodate the risk of Covid-19, but parks do not need to remain closed.

Posted in on May 13, 2020

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