Glenwood’s big tourist attractions reopen to the joy of visitors and locals alike
Nicole Thome and Art Acevedo were in Glenwood Springs on some business Monday from Long Beach, California when they heard that the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park had finally reopened.
“We’ve been doing a little bit of a road trip, and went to Zion and then just continued on,” Thome said after purchasing a pass for her first-ever visit to the popular amusement park and natural caves high atop Iron Mountain.
“I was hopeful they would be open. We checked online this morning and, sure enough,” she said. “We’ll probably look at the caverns and maybe check out a couple of the thrill rides.”
Acevedo said he was looking forward to the view from the top, and was happy to be outdoors in the mountains doing something that’s been forbidden for the past three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Glenwood Springs’ large tourist attractions were given the go-ahead Friday by local public health officials to reopen at limited capacity and with social distancing protocols in place. Monday was the first day of business this spring for the Caverns, and marked the reopening of the Iron Mountain Hot Springs and Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which had been closed since mid-March in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
All three attractions are currently limited to 30% of their normal capacity, which is accomplished by regulating visitors to certain times of the day and, in cases, on a reservation basis.
“Since turning on our webstores at 4 p.m. on Friday, we have been experiencing a strong volume of online purchases,” said Heather Austin, marketing and sales manager for both the Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
“It was a nice soft opening with a fair amount of guests, allowing us to implement and get comfortable with our new post-COVID operations, including social distancing and face coverings,” Austin said. “We are thrilled to be back open and welcoming our guests.”
Bianca Porter of Denver heard on the Denver news Sunday night that Glenwood’s major attractions were reopening, and decided to bring her daughter, Kendall, and her friend Emily Kennison for a visit.
“I figured it would be a great thing for them to come up here and get out and have some fun,” she said. “Finally! It’s about time we get back into some normalcy.”
Suzanne Fruend of New Castle was also happy to give her three kids some time out of the house for an afternoon of fun at the Caverns.
“It’s good to get out and do some things again,” Fruend said. “I think it’s great that we’re slowly reopening, and it’s important for the town to have some stuff going on for the people who are visiting.”
Heather Shires of Denver packed up her family for a visit to Glenwood Springs when she heard things were opening back up.
“We come up here a lot, and have been waiting to hear when the pool was going to open,” she said. “So, we jumped on the chance and booked a room at the Hot Springs Lodge.”
An afternoon at the Caverns was to be followed by a soak in the hot springs pool for her sons Paul and Mason and daughter Scarlett.
“So far, it doesn’t seem to be a lot of people, which is amazing to me, but also understandable,” Shires said.
Kevin Flohr, chief of operations at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, said the pool and health club reopened to members and pass holders only for the morning Monday. They were asked to limit their visit and let the out-of-town visitors have at it for the afternoon hours.
That protocol will continue for the time being, Flohr said, as a way to spread things out and maintain crowd levels while the public health restrictions remain in place.
All throughout the pool and club lobby, and in the lodge, signs on the floor direct pedestrian traffic and mark the six-foot spacing as people are waiting in line for admission.
Pool-side deck chairs are grouped in a way to maintain distancing, the children’s “splash zone” area will have 30-minute limits when crowds get larger, and the lap-swim area is set up for circular lap swimming only, instead of lanes.
The line was already formed when the pool and health club opened at 9 a.m., Flohr said.
“You could just feel everybody’s excitement,” he said. “They were very thrilled just to have the chance to be able to get back in the pool, and hear everybody’s stories again.”
Guests have also been understanding of the safety protocols that are in place, including the required use of face coverings while inside buildings and on the pool deck.
“City Market and Lowe’s kind of conditioned everybody, and now we get to take advantage of that,” said Flohr, who was the longtime manager at the City Market store in Glenwood Springs before joining the Hot Springs Resort.
Taylor Cline has been a lifeguard at the Hot Springs Resort since the fall of 2018, and now lives in the nearby employee housing. He said he relies on his work at the pool, and was excited when the word came that they could reopen.
“It was nice to see people pouring in, and a lot of our locals are back,” he said. “I also talked to a family from Texas earlier, and a few people from the Denver area who were just passing through and realized we were open.”
Chris Janus is a longtime Glenwood Springs residents and a regular at the pool.
“I love this place, and I’ve missed it,” he said. “I have a bad back and a bad neck, so it’s always nice to come here and stay enough to where it starts to feel a little better.
“It was so good for so many people to be here today. The emotional lift has been magnificent.”
Eileen Bernal of Denver said they came up to Glenwood Springs for a couple of days to celebrate her husband, Ed’s, 60th birthday.
“We just love Glenwood, and try to come up here four or five times a year,” she said. “Everybody has been so nice; even the owners came out and talked to us, and let us know what was going on. We really appreciate it. It’s been a really good experience.”
Jeanette Anderson of Palisade said she and her husband usually come up to the Glenwood Hot Springs about three times a week.
“We’ve been anxious to get back, and are so very glad that they’re open,” Anderson said. “This is my exercise and my therapy.”
Garfield County is preparing a new variance request to send to the Colorado Public Health and Environment that will ask to do away with the capacity and visitor number limits. It would allow businesses to operate with their social distancing plans in place, which could be up to 100% capacity if those protocols can be maintained, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said during the regular Monday county commissioners meeting.
“We do feel like we’re at the point where, as long as you can maintain social distancing you should be able to conduct business as you want,” Long said.
Through Sunday, Garfield County had 164 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up from 159 late last week.
While the county has seen a slight uptick in the number of new cases in recent weeks, it’s not near the doubling of cases over a two-week period that would trigger a public health response under the county’s variance approvals, Long said.
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