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DENVER — To all you parents out there, we salute you. Take a deep breath because you’ve almost made it. You’re in the homestretch of homeschooling and summer is right around the corner.
Of course, then begins the anxiety of what summer might look like this year. Will the pools be open? Can you dine out? Can you even visit the mountains?
“We’re all just kind of waiting to see where this is going to go,” said John Caruso, a dad with two young girls.
“We want people here,” said Jen Miller, spokeswoman for Winter Park Resorts.
To say the coronavirus has turned our world upside down this spring is a bit of an understatement.
“We’ve been around for 124 years and we’ve never been closed even a week,” said Bert Vescolani, president and CEO of the Denver Zoo.
So, what will summer look like? Let’s go for a 360 odyssey around the sun with a stop at a Denver-area travel agency, another stop high in the Rocky Mountains, a brief call with an adventure company, and a tour of the Denver Zoo. And we begin by visiting with a family similar to yours.
"Summer is street fests and barbecues"
“Summer is street fests and barbecues and a lot of interaction for sure,” Caruso said.
John and his wife, Kelly, and their two little girls are itching to get out.
“My hope is that we can go swimming and we can go hiking and we can travel,” Kelly said.
Let’s start there — with hiking, biking and travel close to home.
“We want these slopes to be full of people having a good time,” said Miller.
Miller said Winter Park will be open — in at least some capacity.
“We know it will be different than it normally is,” she said. “We are working tirelessly.”
Winter Park, like many other resorts, is trying to figure out how to accommodate crowds knowing social distancing will still be a part of the equation.
“Our priority continues to be the safety and well-being of our community, our employees and our potential guests,” Miller said.
What about summer camps?
And that brings us around to summer camps.
Paul Dreyer is CEO of Avid4 Adventure and said his operation is in the midst of a huge reorganizational effort.
“We get kids outside mountain biking and rock climbing and hiking,” Dreyer said.
His team is making monumental changes to their operation this summer and as a result, he has about 50% fewer staff members this year.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Dreyer said. “We have canceled quote unquote – camp as we know it.”
There will be no huge camps with dozens of participants, no buses full of kids.
“Instead, we have pivoted and are offering three different alternative day-camp operations,” Dreyer said.
Avid4 Adventure will do private at home camps - with two or three families in your own neighborhood to minimize exposure.
It’s also offering smaller mountain day camps.
“Rock climbing, paddling, biking, as usual – just in a smaller group,” Dreyer said. “No more than four or five (kids).”
And the Zoo?
The Zoo has a similar situation.
“We, like everybody else - we’re ready to get back to work and open our doors back,” Vescolani said. “This is the community zoo. It’s been the community zoo for 124 years and 65% of our revenues walk through the gates every day.”
Vescolani said unfortunately zoo camps are canceled for this summer. In a statement to parents, the zoo said:
“We will be using protocols and procedures to make sure everyone feels safe and is safe,” Vescolani said.
Reopening the zoo will likely include attendance caps, time-stamped ticketing, online ticket sales only and a change in the flow of foot traffic to one-way inside the Zoo.
And, believe it or not, reopening is also important for the mental health of the animals.
“They crave interaction,” Vescolani said. “Some of the animals are looking around saying – ‘Hey, wait a minute, why’s it so quiet?”
As for air travel this summer, it’s going to be different, as well. Many airlines are now requiring passengers to wear masks for the entirety of their flight.
Travel agent Deanna Senna is working hard on behalf of her clients.
“I’m on hold with the airlines, the cruise lines and the tour companies trying my best to protect my clients and they money they’ve invested,” Senna said.
Almost all of the domestic carriers including United, American, Southwest and Frontier have adopted those policies requiring masks. Some of the carriers do exempt children if you can’t get them to wear one, but be prepared.
“Every day I get a different story from a different airline about their policies,” Senna said.
If you’re uncomfortable with air travel or have questions, your best bet is to call an agent like Senna.
"We just want to see friends again"
“We just want to see friends again,” said Kelly Caruso.
And that seems to be the prevailing takeaway here. Everyone is working collectively to save summer.
With regard to parks and playgrounds reopening, Denver Parks and Recreation said in a statement Wednesday, “We are looking at a phased in approach to reopening and don’t have specific information at this time.”
The Stapleton Master Community Association said it will release new information about playgrounds and pools this coming Friday, May 15.
And the Jefferson County School District said Wednesday that it will allow limited recreational use of its tracks and fields, but use of playground equipment remains prohibited for now.
“The missing piece is the people,” Vescolani said.
“For the kids, you know, you want them to be around their friends,” Kelly said. “And you want them to be around their teachers and having a normal life, but that’s not the case.”