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Lake Pueblo expecting large Memorial Day crowds despite COVID-19

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PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- With Memorial Day weekend nearly here, State Park’s like Lake Pueblo, the most visited state park in Colorado, are prepping for a huge turnout despite COVID-19.

Last weekend, lake goers came in force. Normally Memorial Day weekend is the first big weekend on the lake. However, it seemed like the holiday weekend came early.

Lines of cars reportedly a quarter-mile long ran outside of the Lake Pueblo State Park's gates.

“Last weekend seemed like a Memorial Day weekend for sure,” said Mark Whitson, a boat owner at the state park.

Whitson and his wife drove down to their boat on Wednesday in order to beat the Memorial Day weekend rush.

“I think it’s going to be very crowded," said Whitson. "I don’t know if they are going to limit the number of people in the park, but it’ll definitely be crowded. I suspect every parking lot on all the trails and beaches to be full.”

“We are still trying to work through all the issues to figure out how we can make sure it is a safe environment for everybody,” said Monique Mullis, the Lake Pueblo State Park Manager.

Since mid-March, the facilities at Lake Pueblo State Park have remained closed, but the lake itself has been open.

Trail use, the shoreline, fishing and boating were still permitted. However, campgrounds, the visitor center, swim beach, picnic areas, and playgrounds remained closed. All 400 campsites reopened to the public last Friday.

According to Mullis, state and national parks across the country have seen an abnormally large amount of visitors in recent months, even though the country is going through a global pandemic.

With park rangers anticipating large numbers of visitors this weekend, they are asking visitors to practice social distancing, not to gather in large groups, and be respectful of others' space.

However, enforcement may prove difficult.

“We are spread pretty thin," said Mullis. "It’s tricky to try to manage all of these things then add COVID-19 enforcement onto it. We basically are educating, we address it when we can. But we need to rely on visitors to take personal responsibility for themselves.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Jared Polis asked Coloradans not to treat the pandemic lightly this Memorial Day weekend.

"This isn't exactly a normal Memorial Day weekend," said Governor Jared Polis. "It's the worst global pandemic since 1918. It is not the time for big family reunions and massive reunions or celebrations."

However, at Lake Pueblo, people didn't seem deterred.

“I’ve been to Walmart several times the past couple of weeks," said Gale Kiniston from Colorado City, who came by the Lake on Wednesday to drop his boat into the lake. "The lines and the amount of people in that store, and half of them with masks, half of them without, I don’t know. If it’s my time to go, the good Lord will take me.”

“People look like they are distancing," said Whitson. "I think people are just ready to get out. And I think mentally, people need that.”

Masks are not required at Lake Pueblo, however, they are recommended.

Local News / Pueblo

Dan Beedie

Dan is a bureau reporter based out of Pueblo. Learn more about Dan here.

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