GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT News)-- With bars, restaurants and gyms closing their doors, more people are heading to great outdoors.
“We definitely are seeing an increase here over the last week and a half to two weeks of people coming in,” says Chief of Interpretation at National Monument, Arlene Jackson.
Although Jackson says that springtime weather does bring in a higher number of visitors, she explains this past weekend was noticeably higher.
“People are definitely trying to keep their distance from each other. Even in our parking lots that are pretty full, people will take turns going into the trail, starting up that trail and then will leave some space between themselves and the next person,” says Jackson.
But be mindful if you do head out. Mesa County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that on Sunday, search and rescue was paged out four different times to various locations across the county.
Only one mission turned out to be completed, as the other three ended up not needing search and rescue. The one mission took 5.5 hours to rescue an injured mountain biker in Horse Thief Canyon.
“We’re happy to provide these search and rescue resources, but we want people to be mindful that as you are going out into the wilderness, be prepared. If we have to go out and rescue you, be mindful that that also means you are putting first responders in danger,” says Megan Terlecky with Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
The search and rescue team is made up of volunteers, many of them with day jobs that are in the medical response field.
“Some of our search and rescue volunteers are helping to staff our call center. Some of our search and rescue volunteers are a part of our high risks groups for COVID-19 , so we’re asking them to stay home and isolate themselves to protect themselves as well,” says Terlecky.
National Monument staff says they love to see people coming out to utilize their space. But they want to remind all to do so responsibly.
“I think they are looking for a place that allows them to take themselves out of their current situation and enjoy the beauty and enjoy the scenery, and then be able to step back into their life and feel refreshed and a little bit more calm,” says Jackson.
Park staff and MCSO is advising people before they go out, to let a family member or friend know where they are heading to. Also if you haven’t been hiking in a while they recommend starting with some of the easier trails. If you are going out into the wilderness, they say expect winter-like conditions.
The National Monument Visitor Center is closed. Staff say that’s due to the small size of the building where there isn’t enough room to properly social distance.
As of now the Monument is open and they are not charging entrance fees. Staff say this is to help prevent the spread of germs on money.
Monument staff asks visitors that if a trail parking lot is full that you find another parking lot at a different trail head to park at. They ask visitors to not park along the access roads or the highway, as to not block emergency personnel access if needed.