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Pikes Peak copes with impacts, changes due to COVID-19 pandemic

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- After several consecutive years of record attendance on Pikes Peak, officials expect a decrease in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 500,000 tourists annually visit America's Mountain.

"We've been down 40% so far this year," said Jack Glavan, manager of the Pikes Peak Highway. "We're expecting a 20% decline for the year. But a good sign is we had 8,000 visitors last weekend, and July -- our busiest month -- is coming up."

Many people are traveling less because of the pandemic, and they also may be reluctant to endure social distancing measures that are required in gift shops and on shuttle buses at Pikes Peak.

Glavan said bus interiors are wiped down and disinfected after they drop off passengers at the summit, and after passengers return to two shuttle parking lots.

"Everyone must wear a mask and stay six feet apart, except for members of the same family," he said. "It means taking longer between trips because we allow no more than four of five passengers per bus. We're going to add buses for the Fourth of July weekend, and we hope that by then we can add more passengers per bus."

Roger Connelly, a tourist from Chicago, rode a shuttle Thursday and says he wasn't worried.

"Everyone was wearing a mask," he said.  "The shuttle always seemed like it was very clean and very well kept.  Everyone was a safe distance apart, all the parties kind of stayed within themselves.  Out of all possible situations, I think they handled it as well as they could have."

Lisa Hotchkiss, a Wisconsin tourist, said she and her family didn't take a shuttle because there was a waiting line, and she was disappointed by the social distancing.

"We were kind of looking for a place that maybe wasn't strict with social distancing," she said.  "However, we come here and yeah, every time we went into a store or restaurant, we had to wear a mask.  We're from rural Wisconsin, maybe one case of COVID."

A benefit to lower attendance, Glavan said, is that fewer shuttles are needed -- which allows more people to drive to the summit and park in the limited spaces there.

"The lot at the summit can hold no more than 40 or 50 vehicles," he said.

Many of the summit's prime scenic views are blocked by construction of the new summit house, scheduled to be completed next spring.

But some tourists said they don't mind, and that they like the new walkways being built there.

The pandemic has affected even the construction, Glavan said.

"We have had some delays," he said. "One of the unique stories is one of the subcontractors uses an engineering firm from Poland and they were quarantined, as well.  So it slowed down some of the shop drawings."

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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