(The Center Square) - Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will start a "phased reopening" process in early June, the U.S. National Park Service announced Friday.
The park, located about four hours south of Denver, closed April 17, citing increased visitation and crowds despite stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
NPS said the park will begin reopening starting June 3.
"We are excited to welcome visitors back to the park and support our local communities," Park Superintendent Pamela Rice said in a statement. "As the public returns to the park, we ask that they practice social distancing and follow national and state guidance to keep park staff, local residents and the general public safe."
The park's visitor center, Pinon Flats Campground, and overnight backcountry access will be among the facilities that remain closed until mid-June, but their reopening is "contingent upon successful implementation of Phase 1," NPS said.
The park and preserve encompass almost 150,000 acres spanning both Alamosa, which declared a state of emergency on March 18, and Saguache counties. Alamosa County this week requested a variance to the state's safer-at-home order, which would allow restaurants, bars, gyms and theaters to reopen with restrictions.
"I have confidence in the plan for reopening the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve," Alamosa County Public Health Director Della Cox-Vieira said. "The Park has done a great job balancing the public health needs of their visitors and staff as they increase public access to the national treasure in our backyard. I remind all visitors to practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, and face covering in the common areas of the Park."
Visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve spent $27.4 million in the surrounding "gateway" communities in 2018, according to NPS data.
NPS announced this week that Rocky Mountain National Park will begin to reopen May 27.