The need to follow social distancing rules – especially in city parks – to contain the spread of the coronavirus was emphasized Tuesday by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.
As he first mentioned in a press conference on Monday, Suthers reiterated on Tuesday that too many people are gathering in parks in groups of 11 or more, in violation of Governor Jared Polis’ recent order.
“They can play sports, they can have picnics,” he said. “Do not participate in organized or fetched team sports. There are too many impromptu soccer, football, basketball and volleyball games in our parks. They play these games and (impossible) to maintain social distance.”
According to Suthers, some of the violators are younger people who believe the virus does not pose a serious threat to them, while others may not know the governor’s order and the reasons behind it.
“We got calls from people complaining about larger groups, and city officials saw it too,” he said.
Suthers said the city will deploy park rangers and school officials to patrol parks and remind violations of the order.
“We will not quote people, write tickets or punish them,” he said. “We’ll kindly remind them. If that doesn’t work, we may have to restrict the use of some parks or shut them down. I hope people help us not to.”
A crew from KRDO NewsChannel 13 visited Garden of the Gods and did not see a group of more than 10 people.
“But there are more people here today than I expected,” said Chris Prichard, who brought his wife and four children to visit. “We thought about going elsewhere, but we made up our minds here. We are careful with our social distancing. The weather is nice and we had to get out of the house. We have been there since it all began.”
And therein lies another problem – the popularity of Garden of the Gods – which is why Suthers urges people to spread out and visit other parks.
“Try new parks, new trails, and open spaces,” he said. “We don’t want to close the Garden of the Gods, but we will if we have to.”
Josh Mullins and his girlfriend Britney Kennedy said they drove around and looked at several parks to visit. Eventually they decided on Memorial Park because it didn’t seem as congested as usual.
“I’m glad the city is cracking down on social distancing rules,” said Mullins. “I think the city should do more and actually impose good violations as this is a serious situation we are in with the virus.”
“They are just asking us to stay home,” she said. “We should be able to do this without complaining. If we all do that, the US could avoid the fate of Italy and China. We’re just here for a bit of exercise and then we’ll go home.”
The Skateboard Park at Memorial Park was packed with kids, teens, and young adults on Tuesday.
“I don’t think the virus is making many of us stop coming here,” said Josh Corbin, a seasoned skateboarder. “But we know how serious it is. We are careful. If the city has to enforce the rules more, that’s fine. There is already an officer who regularly patrols this area anyway.”
Also on Tuesday evening in Memorial Park, a group of at least two dozen people played soccer and a similarly sized group played volleyball.
The volleyball players broke up and left after learning of the mayor’s plans to enforce social distancing rules.
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