The city of Aspen’s recreation department is adjusting its offerings as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the area. Several employees are under isolation orders from Pitkin County, leaving the department short staffed and unable to open all three indoor facilities for the public.
The Red Brick climbing gym will be closed until Nov. 18, and the Aspen Ice Garden will remain closed through Nov. 30, though crews are building out the ice this week.
Cory Vander Veen, recreation director, said that there is “absolutely not” a cause for concern for members of the public who have visited any of the recreation facilities recently.
“We have health checks, we have all those procedures in place to keep people safe.
And at this time people are safe. We are purely doing this out of an abundance of caution,” he said.
Due to health privacy laws, Vander Veen could not be more specific about the isolation orders that members of his staff have received, and only said that interactions on and off the job were identified by contact tracers employed by Pitkin County. The recreation department was among those to lose staff when 55 city employers were laid off on April 1, in response to the loss in sales tax revenue brought on by the closure of all non-essential businesses this spring.
The decision to close the Red Brick Gym allows Vander Veen to condense his resources for now.
“We have a short staff as it is,” he said. “With these isolation orders that we've received, we are challenged to keep that facility open and clean it and follow all the safety procedures.”
The Aspen Recreation Center (ARC), which was closed last month after a patron tested positive for COVID-19, remains open to the public, and the Red Brick Gym’s private gymnastics operators will have continued use of the space during the closure.
The opening of the Aspen Ice Garden is delayed to allow for staff resources to concentrate on the ARC this month. The rink at the ARC is currently open for figure skating and drop-in hockey.
Vander Veen said the recreation department received hundreds of responses to a survey sent out to members of the adult recreational hockey leagues typically played at the Ice Garden, and will be using that input to form a plan for the league this year.
“We got really good information from the community participants,” he said. “But it's all going to be predicated on what the county allows and the city allows and the current health orders at the time. Optimistically, we are trying to put some things in place that we can start ... offering some league play but we are just not there yet.”
Vander Veen said his team is aware that as the days get shorter and temperatures drop, the community will seek their recreation indoors. At the same time, public health orders across the state are getting stricter as the number of COVID-19 cases tick up.
“What we as a recreation department provide is that physical emotional well-being, and we want to keep providing that but we want to keep proving it safely. We are going to have flare-ups and we are going to close accordingly to make sure that the community is safe and this is one of those times that out of caution, we are just going to close and clean and then once we can get back to it we will,” he said.
As the facilities have weathered the mandatory shutdown, layoffs and other hiccups along the way, Vander Veen said the public has been patient and understanding.
“We appreciate the community and the support they've given us throughout this time, and we hope to keep supporting them,” he said.