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Boulder considers closing open space areas to help social distancing efforts

Boulder is considering the possibility because too many people are visiting parks and open spaces.

BOULDER, Colo. — People are overcrowding trails in Boulder and city leaders are considering a closure of open space areas.

It's understandable why people might want to squeeze in a quick hike on warm, sunny days like Colorado had on Wednesday. However, since stay-at-home orders were issued across the state and social distancing became common practice, popular open space areas in Boulder have started to face a new problem.

"What we're seeing is increased visitation and we really do want to encourage the public to remind themselves that there are stay-at-home orders in place for a reason," said Phillip Yates, a spokesman for Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks Department.

Yates said his team has increased its communication to promote social distancing on trails, including adding signs encouraging people to stay home if they're sick and to maintain six feet between hikers.

Judging by the perpetually full parking lots at popular locations like Chautauqua Park, those efforts haven't been enough to curb overcrowding, Yates said.

"If compliance continues to be a problem, there's certainly issues we have and concerns we have and as we look at it," he said. "And in context, some compliance issues may potentially lead to trail closures."

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Yates said the goal is to keep "space" in the city's open spaces. That's why he and city leaders are asking people to take their love of hiking onto less popular trails in hopes of reducing the issue.

Boulder is also considering other measures for its open space areas including weather-dependent weekend closures at some locations and limiting the amount of parking at high-visitation trails.

The city's Open Space and Mountain Parks Department said its waiting to see what surrounding communities decide to do. Last month, Boulder County Parks and Open Space canceled all public programs and hikes through the end of April because of the virus.

"This is the reason why we’re trying to maintain access in a context of a changing difficult circumstance," Yates said. "That’s the main reason we need compliance to go up and increase as much as we can."

Otherwise, people will have to find other places to get their exercise.

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