COLORADO, USA — With the closures of all Colorado ski areas due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Berthoud and Loveland Passes have seen a high influx of hikers and backcountry skiers recently, according to the Colorado State Patrol (CSP).
The crowds have resulted in hundreds of vehicles being parked dangerously along roadways, CSP said.
Backcountry users should park only in clearly marked and designated parking areas, according to CSP. Parking on the side of a highway or mountain pass, with narrow to no shoulders, may put part of your car in live traffic lanes, which is extremely dangerous to drivers and other motorists. CSP said.
By blocking roadways, it makes it difficult or even impossible for emergency responders and maintenance crews, including avalanche workers, to do their jobs.
As a result of these parking safety issues, CSP Troopers and Clear Creek County Sheriff Deputies will be adding extra officers to Berthoud and Loveland Passes to prevent illegal or dangerous parking from happening.
Vehicles that park anywhere other than designated parking areas are subject to citations or being towed. Additional signs will be in place for both parking or no-parking areas; when in doubt, do not park.
"We understand that being isolated is difficult, especially if you have a lot of free time and are so close to the natural beauty that Colorado provides," said Captain Jared Rapp, local Colorado State Patrol Troop Commander. "The problem arises when dozens or even hundreds of vehicles are parked in areas not designed for parking, like on highways or blocking roadways. It's dangerous in a variety of ways."
Additionally, Loveland Pass is a designated HAZMAT route, which includes delivery of much needed essential products to help the COVID-19 crisis. The Colorado Department of Transportation will not close Loveland Pass except as an extreme last resort, due to its importance in the distribution of food, supplies, and commerce; inappropriately parked vehicles can impede maintenance crews and the much-needed supplies being transported.
US 40 and US 6 are vital links for commodities to be transported statewide. This means large commercial motor vehicles traveling in areas with tight curves and limited visibility.
Therefore, traffic cannot become choked into a single lane due to motorists parking out of designated areas, especially where little or no shoulder exists, according to CDOT. Vehicles parked in these areas may also be trapped with snow as plows go through the area.
Last weekend, many people were seen walking in the roadway with their backs to traffic; not only improper but highly dangerous, CSP said.
“Each contact we need to make with someone who has parked illegally raises the risk of exposure to everyone involved,” said Colorado State Patrol Master Sergeant Don Enloe. “Nobody wants to take this home or injure someone else as a result of being in a place they didn’t need to be at in the first place.”
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, residents and visitors are reminded to continue practicing social distancing and not make non-necessary trips out, especially around other people. Doing so will not only help the crisis to pass quicker but will help save lives in the process.
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