(The Center Square) – Rocky Mountain National Park has shut down to all visitors, citing the coronavirus outbreak.
The move comes just days after the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service announced it was suspending park entrance fees in order to help people “embrace nature and implement some social distancing.”
The park’s shutdown went into effect Friday night, NPS said.
“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners at Rocky Mountain National Park is our number one priority,” the agency said in a statement. “The National Park Service is working with the federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels."
The closure comes after Estes Park Mayor Todd Jirsa sent a letter to the Interior Department requesting Rocky Mountain National Park be temporarily closed to avoid visitors coming to the town to enter the park, The Denver Post reported earlier Friday. Estes Park serves as one of the eastern entrances to the nation’s third-most visited national park.
“A continued influx of visitors at this critical time presents a grave public health concern to Estes Park and surrounding communities,” Jirsa wrote, according to the Post. “The Larimer County public health director has formally advised us to encourage visitors not to travel through Larimer County to Estes Park. We have an older, high-risk population with many retirees and limited critical resources.”
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Wednesday the United States' “vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing.”