What a difference a year makes. Last summer, Golden’s beloved Clear Creek became a lightning rod of controversy and, for many in Golden, anxiety as the result of the possibility that crowds of …
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What a difference a year makes.
Last summer, Golden’s beloved Clear Creek became a lightning rod of controversy and, for many in Golden, anxiety as the result of the possibility that crowds of tubers and recreators could create a hotbed of COVID-19 transmission. In fact, the creek was even closed to recreation altogether for two periods (although many crafty tubers still found their way around the barricades).
But now, with COVID-19 rates to their lowest levels in nearly a year, over 70% of Jeffco residents who are eligible for the vaccine having received one dose and updated public health guidance suggesting there is little risk of COVID-19 transmission in outdoor settings, city officials are gearing up for a very busy summer on the creek.
“We think it’s going to be a pretty big year,” said Deputy City Manager Carly Lorentz. “Probably one of the busiest.”
But when those crowds descend with the creek with their tubes on weekend afternoons, they will be met with several changes that the city hopes will increase both safety and enjoyment of Golden’s foremost water attraction.
Perhaps the most visible of those changes will be the planned addition of creek ambassadors that will interact with visitors along the creek and educate them about creek conditions, rules and regulations, and also provide more general information about the city of Golden.
Lorentz said the city is hoping to hire four or five creek ambassadors who will work on weekends when the creek is typically busiest.
However, Lorentz said the city is currently “struggling with a lack of applications” for the creek ambassador position, a situation which mirrors municipal hiring struggles nationwide (according to a job posting on the city website, the part-time position pays $12.50 to $16 an hour).
“Hopefully we will get more applications,” she said.
Also planned is a new flag system that the city will use to inform visitors about the level of risk associated with going onto the creek on a particular day. Lorentz said the city is planning to post the flags at visible locations on some of the bridges that cross the creek.
Similar to stop lights, a green flag will indicate the lowest level of risk, while a yellow will mean there is a medium risk and red will represent a high risk. Two red flags will mean the creek is closed. There will also be signage explaining the flag rating system set up along the creek.
Finally, the city is working to create an online portal that will show the current flag rating and other information about the creek. Lorentz said the city is also hoping to connect the tubing rentals companies to that portal so they can provide accurate information to their customers.
Those changes that are being put in place this summer are three of the 17 ideas that came out of a group of creek stakeholders, including nearby residents, downtown businesses and representatives from those rental companies, that was commissioned by the city and have been meting over the past few months to help improve the city’s operations of the creek.
Also prepping for a big summer is one of those companies, Adventure West River Tube Rentals.
Owners Beth and Mitch Battilla say they expecting their rental season to be busier than normal with high demand from people wanting to get out and be outside. But, one potential balancing factor could be that people now have many more options for fun than they did last year, when many indoor activities such as movie theaters were closed.
However, their six-year-old business will also be in a better position to handle high demand as it is now operating out of its own space near the creek at 423 10th Street after operating out of a stand along the creek last year.
Beth said they are also planning to keep the reservation system they adopted during the pandemic.
“That was one great thing that came out of COVID for us were those reservations to spread people out a little bit,” she said. “And we are going to continue that because it was actually really good for our business.”
Adventure West has not yet started renting tubes because of high water levels but is now taking reservations for rentals starting on June 19. However, reservations will initially be limited to adults until the city determines it is safe for kids.
Another planned change that will likely excite many customers is the planned addition off a shuttle that will drop its tubers off along the creek near the new Peaks to Plains trail addition when it opens off of Highway 6.
“That will allow people to not have to walk with the tubes along the Riverwalk so there’s not as much foot traffic,” he said. “But that will depend on whether the Peak to Plains addition opens or not. Right now, I know they are shooting for August.”
Beth said she and Mitch also participated in the stakeholder group and are excited about the planned changes that came out of it.
“I think the more educated the public is about safety along the creek and respecting other uses, the better,” she said.
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