State parks remain popular escape from pandemic
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As the pandemic unfolded last summer, area state parks become popular escapes for people from around the state. And it’s a trend that is expected to continue.
“I would say, as a trend, the numbers we used to see on holidays are just becoming a typical weekend,” said Kelly Cook, administrative assistant for Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake state parks. “Fourth of July is always our busiest day with the most people, and we were seeing Fourth of July-like numbers on multiple weekends last summer.”
She said campsites at Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake are booked six months out.
“Most of the campground is booked every single night for the summer with the exception of early-season weekdays where there’s still some availability,” Cook said. “If it’s like Fourth of July weekend, or something like that, people book at midnight six months in advance. If you’re on the site five or 10 minutes after midnight, you’ve missed it.”
Guthrie Lowe, Stagecoach State Park senior ranger, said it is the same there, where the number of visitors grew from 175,000 in 2019 to between 250,000 and 300,000 visitors last summer.
• 8:30 p.m. May 29, Pearl Lake: Pearl Lake Star Party with Professor McCudden
• 5 p.m. June 18, Steamboat Lake: Painting in the Park with local artist Leslie Lovejoy
• 6 p.m. June 26, Steamboat Lake: Float-ella with Yer State Birds
• 8:30 p.m. July 10, Steamboat Lake: Steamboat Star Party with Professor McCudden
• 7:30 p.m. July 17, Steamboat Lake: Dancing Under the Stars with Scott Goodhart
• 5 p.m. July 23, Steamboat Lake: Painting in the Park with local artist Dona Steele
• 6 p.m. July 24, Steamboat Lake: Float-ella (artist TBD)
• 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7, Steamboat Lake: Dancing Under the Stars with Scott Goodhart
• 8:30 p.m. Aug. 13, Steamboat Lake: Steamboat Star Party with Professor McCudden
• 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21, Steamboat Lake: Float-ella featuring Chamberlin Birch
• 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4, Steamboat Lake: Float-ella (artist TBD)
Lowe and Cook have seen an increase in demand for camping spots and an increase in visitation at the parks since the pandemic started more than a year ago. They also believe, despite the growing number of vaccinations, that the pandemic and COVID-19 will continue to play a role moving forward.
“I would imagine that folks who enjoyed getting out to go camping or for other outdoor activities will probably continue to do that,” Lowe said. “I think that we will continue to see an increase, but that’s just a guess. I don’t really have a way to accurately predict that.”
Plans are to resume some programming at both Stagecoach Reservoir, Pearl Lake and Steamboat Lake this summer.
Lowe has planned events with local day camps and will host additional programming that is open to the public.
“We’re still kind of playing it by ear at this point, as far as what the restrictions are going to be and to make sure that we’re in compliance with the county on those restrictions and doing it in a way that is as safe as possible,” Lowe said. “Last year we didn’t do any of our normal summer programming, and this year, we’re going to try to do at least some of it.”
At Steamboat and Pearl lakes, Cook said programming will also be in compliance with public health guidelines. She said events including “Star Parties” — May 29 at Pearl Lake and July 10 and Aug. 13 at Steamboat Lake — led by Colorado Mountain College professor Paul McCudden and Painting in the Park on June 18 with Leslie Lovejoy and on July 23 with Dona Steele are on the calendar.
Dance instructor Scott Goodhart will host Dancing Under the Stars events July 17 and Aug. 7, and waters and shores at Steamboat Lake will set the stage for the four-performance Float-ella Concert Series featuring local bands including Yer State Birds on June 26 and Chamberlin Birch on Sept. 4. Two additional shows are scheduled for July 24 and Sept. 4, but the bands have not been announced.
All programs are free with a parks pass and open to the public. The Painting in the Park programs require registration and will be limited to the first 15 people. People can register by calling the Steamboat Lake Visitors Center one to two weeks before the programs are scheduled. Cook said donations are welcome and help support future programs.
Cook floated the idea of the water-based concert series last September when she asked camp host John Jump and Shawn David Allen to perform. The bands are staged on a pontoon boat that floats, slowly, through the waters of Placer Cove, past the Sunrise Vista Campground, past the marina and past the Dutch Hill campground, allowing people to listen to the music from their campsites or boats.
“We’ve been seeing a trend in camping where it’s becoming more popular, but we think that pandemic kind of expedited the popularity of camping,” Cook said. “Looking at the future, we have multiple, different versions of plans, because we do think that the parks have become extremely popular, and we don’t think that’s going away.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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