DENVER — This weekend, the Denver Zoo welcomed back visitors after being closed for months due to COVID-19 concerns. The zoo partially reopened to the general public on Friday.
The words "welcome back" have never sounded so good to workers at the zoo.
"This is great for our mental health and our emotional health," Denver Zoo Director of Communications Jake Kubie said.
Especially the mental health of families looking for things to do again.
"When they opened back up, it was a pretty big priority to get back, and we're really excited to be back," one visitor who brought their family said.
"We didn't realize how much we missed the zoo until we couldn't come anymore," Jillian Garnhart said.
So making the return trip is essential for that, whether it's a big family or just Garnhart's 3-year-old daughter, who was excited to see her favorite animals — elephants.
"Since parks weren't open yet, being at home and being confined, she was tired of walking the path every day, so coming to the zoo and having that mental break of the same thing every time has been really a lifesaver," Garnhart said.
With zoo workers manning lifeguard chairs to help with traffic, everyone wearing masks and limited visitors allowed, it feels different.
"To have the longest closure of the zoo by far in our 124-year history is very odd, and this feels normal-ish," Kubie said.
But normal-ish is bringing people back, even if they need a reservation and starting to make people and animals happy again.