Clear Creek Access During COVID-19

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Update: August 7, 2020

The City’s current goal in regards to Clear Creek is to limit gatherings at the creek because in years past we have seen hundreds of people in very close proximity to each other. During the current pandemic, we have significant concerns about people gathering so closely together. One of the other goals is to find a way to allow for some recreational usage of the creek. We know that there are limited opportunities this year for activities, especially water-related activities, and so we have been trying to find a balance of allowing some recreation opportunities in the creek while also trying to avoid gatherings along the creek. To this end, we have closed access to the creek in Golden, meaning you cannot get in or out of the water within city limits except for at Vanover Park. Vanover is the location for exiting the creek because further down the creek is the dam.

Since July 4th, we have been adjusting our creek strategy to try and find the right balance. We know it can be a bit confusing. The simplest way forward would be either to close the entire creek to all uses, or to allow everything. We have worked with the water activity businesses to help educate people that masks are required, that access to the creek in Golden is closed, and that tubers should use the trail on the south bank of the creek to walk up to Jefferson County creek access.

Mask wearing has been an important aspect of our strategy as well. We have been leading with an education-first approach, and during the last month there have been city, county, and state requirements for public face mask wearing. The City has been conducting a mask-count study starting in early July to measure the number of people wearing masks along the creek and downtown. City staff has been counting mask order compliance twice a day, every day and have found compliance varies, but the average is 88 percent of people have masks and that average has been increasing in recent weeks. In addition, The City has been monitoring the area with photos and drone video footage to see if gatherings are happening. We intend to use these data points to inform future discussions on the creek and public health order compliance strategies.

Our park rangers and police department have spent a lot of time on the creek corridor this summer. Last weekend, August 1-2, Golden Police had 525 contacts total -- 506 contacts related to mask requirements and 19 contacts related to violation of creek access. A total of six citations were issued, all related to creek access violations, often when people have been observed cutting the fence or climbing over it. The weekend before, July 25-26, the rangers and police made 218 contacts related to creek access and mask enforcement with one citation issued.

While city staff don’t think it’s working perfectly, it is a difficult balance to maintain and unless City Council decides to completely close or open the creek, staff believes we need to keep adjusting, monitoring, and enforcing our current configuration. City Council will be reviewing the City’s creek strategy at their August 27th City Council Meeting.

Background

In anticipation of large crowds gathering along Clear Creek in Golden for the 4th of July weekend, the Golden City Council directed the City Manager to issue an administrative order closing off all access to the creek within city limits beginning July 2.

The decision was made following a weekend with no restrictions on creek use, which resulted in large gatherings along the creek banks, no social distancing and few people wearing masks.

“The July 4th holiday weekend typically brings even bigger crowds to Golden," said Golden City Manager Jason Slowinski. "With the rise in COVID-19 cases in neighboring states where many visitors come from, we want to make sure we are not adding to the problem here in Colorado.”

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy all the things Golden has to offer,” said Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg. “This was a difficult decision for us to make, but in these unprecedented times, we have to do what we believe is best for the health of our community.”

During the same City Council special meeting, Council also directed the City manager to issue an administrative order requiring the use of face masks on public property when social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained. This includes public parks and trails, as well as inside City facilities.

Since then, Jefferson County Public Health issued an order requiring everyone in Jeffco ages 11 and older to wear a mask or cloth face covering when in public settings — both indoors and outdoors — when unable to maintain 6-foot social distancing.

On Thursday, July 9, Council further discussed creek access and has directed staff to research safe ways to allow for recreation along the creek.

Current Creek Management Strategy

Access has since remained closed as Council seeks ways to safely reopen the creek for recreation. As the banks of Clear Creek extend beyond city limits and we have no jurisdiction over the creek itself, tubers and kayakers can legally enter the creek west of Golden and float through town. As such, it is necessary we provide a safe exit point from the creek at Vanover Park before anyone floats into the Coors plant. This is the ONLY exit point.

While we do not encourage tubing at this time, we do understand that the creek provides a precious haven for many to cool off in and recreate during the summer and are looking for ways to open access again. In the meantime, we ask those who choose to go tubing by entering the creek west of city limits not crowd any areas along the creek, to wear a mask when not in the water, to maintain a safe distance between groups, and to use safety equipment such as life preservers and helmets. We also request tubers use the south side creek trail to gain entry into the creek west of Golden as the trail along the north bank is much busier with pedestrians and bikers. This will help alleviate some of the congestion along the creek.

We want to hear your ideas for providing a safe place for everyone to enjoy the creek without increasing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.


Update: August 7, 2020

The City’s current goal in regards to Clear Creek is to limit gatherings at the creek because in years past we have seen hundreds of people in very close proximity to each other. During the current pandemic, we have significant concerns about people gathering so closely together. One of the other goals is to find a way to allow for some recreational usage of the creek. We know that there are limited opportunities this year for activities, especially water-related activities, and so we have been trying to find a balance of allowing some recreation opportunities in the creek while also trying to avoid gatherings along the creek. To this end, we have closed access to the creek in Golden, meaning you cannot get in or out of the water within city limits except for at Vanover Park. Vanover is the location for exiting the creek because further down the creek is the dam.

Since July 4th, we have been adjusting our creek strategy to try and find the right balance. We know it can be a bit confusing. The simplest way forward would be either to close the entire creek to all uses, or to allow everything. We have worked with the water activity businesses to help educate people that masks are required, that access to the creek in Golden is closed, and that tubers should use the trail on the south bank of the creek to walk up to Jefferson County creek access.

Mask wearing has been an important aspect of our strategy as well. We have been leading with an education-first approach, and during the last month there have been city, county, and state requirements for public face mask wearing. The City has been conducting a mask-count study starting in early July to measure the number of people wearing masks along the creek and downtown. City staff has been counting mask order compliance twice a day, every day and have found compliance varies, but the average is 88 percent of people have masks and that average has been increasing in recent weeks. In addition, The City has been monitoring the area with photos and drone video footage to see if gatherings are happening. We intend to use these data points to inform future discussions on the creek and public health order compliance strategies.

Our park rangers and police department have spent a lot of time on the creek corridor this summer. Last weekend, August 1-2, Golden Police had 525 contacts total -- 506 contacts related to mask requirements and 19 contacts related to violation of creek access. A total of six citations were issued, all related to creek access violations, often when people have been observed cutting the fence or climbing over it. The weekend before, July 25-26, the rangers and police made 218 contacts related to creek access and mask enforcement with one citation issued.

While city staff don’t think it’s working perfectly, it is a difficult balance to maintain and unless City Council decides to completely close or open the creek, staff believes we need to keep adjusting, monitoring, and enforcing our current configuration. City Council will be reviewing the City’s creek strategy at their August 27th City Council Meeting.

Background

In anticipation of large crowds gathering along Clear Creek in Golden for the 4th of July weekend, the Golden City Council directed the City Manager to issue an administrative order closing off all access to the creek within city limits beginning July 2.

The decision was made following a weekend with no restrictions on creek use, which resulted in large gatherings along the creek banks, no social distancing and few people wearing masks.

“The July 4th holiday weekend typically brings even bigger crowds to Golden," said Golden City Manager Jason Slowinski. "With the rise in COVID-19 cases in neighboring states where many visitors come from, we want to make sure we are not adding to the problem here in Colorado.”

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy all the things Golden has to offer,” said Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg. “This was a difficult decision for us to make, but in these unprecedented times, we have to do what we believe is best for the health of our community.”

During the same City Council special meeting, Council also directed the City manager to issue an administrative order requiring the use of face masks on public property when social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained. This includes public parks and trails, as well as inside City facilities.

Since then, Jefferson County Public Health issued an order requiring everyone in Jeffco ages 11 and older to wear a mask or cloth face covering when in public settings — both indoors and outdoors — when unable to maintain 6-foot social distancing.

On Thursday, July 9, Council further discussed creek access and has directed staff to research safe ways to allow for recreation along the creek.

Current Creek Management Strategy

Access has since remained closed as Council seeks ways to safely reopen the creek for recreation. As the banks of Clear Creek extend beyond city limits and we have no jurisdiction over the creek itself, tubers and kayakers can legally enter the creek west of Golden and float through town. As such, it is necessary we provide a safe exit point from the creek at Vanover Park before anyone floats into the Coors plant. This is the ONLY exit point.

While we do not encourage tubing at this time, we do understand that the creek provides a precious haven for many to cool off in and recreate during the summer and are looking for ways to open access again. In the meantime, we ask those who choose to go tubing by entering the creek west of city limits not crowd any areas along the creek, to wear a mask when not in the water, to maintain a safe distance between groups, and to use safety equipment such as life preservers and helmets. We also request tubers use the south side creek trail to gain entry into the creek west of Golden as the trail along the north bank is much busier with pedestrians and bikers. This will help alleviate some of the congestion along the creek.

We want to hear your ideas for providing a safe place for everyone to enjoy the creek without increasing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.