COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Convincing more people to follow social distancing recommendations at parks, trails and open spaces in Colorado Springs has been difficult since the governor's stay-at-home order for COVID-19 ended nearly a month ago.
"We're still not getting the voluntary compliance we'd like to see," said Kurt Schroeder, a manager with Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. "And police are still issuing citations for people who park illegally at crowded parks."
Even the prior warning that officials may restrict usage of parks -- or close them entirely -- hasn't led to a significant change in behavior, and the situation could worsen over the Memorial Day weekend with good weather and fewer people expected to travel.
On Friday, Kalee Sawn and her family were visiting Helen Hunt Falls, which has been a recent source of concern for officials.
"We came in the evening when it wasn't as crowded, and we have no intention of coming during the weekend when it'll be more crowded," she said. "We have masks but they're out in the car. We feel like we don't need to wear them if we're not going to be in close contact with other people."
Another visitor, Brendin Huddleston, is less concerned.
"I don't hang around many people," he said. "Just my normal group and I feel that I'm safe with them. If there were more people here, I'd wear a mask."
Schroeder said a team of seven police officers and park rangers will remain on duty through the weekend, patrolling the most populated parks and reminding visitors of the rules when necessary.
But, despite the need for more compliance, he said the team likely won't issue citations for anything besides parking violations.
"I think the City Council has to give that team the authority to issue other citations," he said. "You have to remember that these rules are recommendations, not requirements. So we'll continue to ask people that who come to parks wear masks, park legally, stay in small groups and spread out and visit other parks."
Schroeder said that the city soon will have more help monitoring parks.
"The city is going to hire 16 people with money from the federal CARES program for COVID recovery," he said. "They'll start in a few weeks and work through the summer. They'll focus on Red Rock Canyon, Garden of the Gods, Palmer Park and North Cheyenne Cañon Park."
Unlike the current team having to split other duties with park monitoring, Schroeder said, the new hires will work full-time watching for social distancing violations.
"Expect to see a stronger presence," he said.
Schroeder also asked that park visitors remember fire restrictions are in place.
"As dry as it is and as windy as it's been, the last thing we need is a fire," he said. "No campfires, fireworks or smoking."