Crested Butte council actions on COVID

Mask mandate extended, considers how to extend outdoor dining, looking at winter

by Mark Reaman

The town health order mandating that people wear face masks on the main business portion of Elk Avenue will be in place indefinitely. The mandate was set to expire September 30 but the Crested Butte Town Council directed town manager Dara MacDonald to keep the order requiring pedestrians on Elk Avenue and some of the nearby side streets to wear a face covering until “the order is repealed.” No specific date was set.

Council had approved the order this summer when it became clear that the primary downtown business area was crowded and social distancing restrictions were not always possible. The order was originally implemented on July 10.

In a memo to the council for its September 8 meeting, MacDonald said compliance had generally been high with members of the public wearing masks in the designated area. “The marshals do have regular interactions with folks who are not wearing masks, but after those contacts have received almost 100 percent compliance,” she wrote. “By setting the expectation that pedestrians wear masks on Elk it alleviates the burden on businesses to have to ask patrons to wear masks as they are required to do inside under state and county orders.”

MacDonald said that because there is no definite end in sight to the health threats posed by COVID-19, keeping the order in place was a good idea. She said it could be confusing if the order was allowed to expire only to have to reinstate it in the future.

“I think it has probably helped the businesses,” said Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt. “They don’t have to be put in the position of confronting people not wearing them. Plus if the weather stays like this it will keep your face warm.”

“I don’t see a big negative,” stated council member Chris Haver.

“Anecdotal stories indicate there is less mask wearing on Elk now than a few weeks ago, so this will help,” said council member Will Dujardin.

The council voted to give MacDonald the go-ahead to extend the mandate for as long as she feels it is necessary.


Fall/winter thoughts

MacDonald said she has been having conversations with Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District manager Hedda Peterson about the upcoming winter season. She said the Met Rec was willing to perhaps help fund the effort to provide winter activities. “They may have some additional grant money that could be used in conjunction with town in relation to winter outdoor activity,” MacDonald said. “The initial idea is to enhance safety measures and potentially expand activities.”

Peterson confirmed that Met Rec is interested in assisting with making winter comfortable for people while dealing with a pandemic.

“In anticipation of a winter season that’s expected to present additional challenges, we’re working to support community partners in a collective effort to connect more residents to outdoor winter recreation opportunities,” Peterson said. “As of now, the partners involved include Crested Butte Nordic, Gunnison Nordic, the city of Gunnison and the Crested Butte Avalanche Center. Together, we’re exploring opportunities to connect more Gunnison Valley residents to outdoor winter recreation opportunities, to reduce local barriers to engaging in outdoor winter recreation pursuits, to promote safe and responsible outdoor recreation for residents and visitors, and to provide capacity support to help partner organizations operate efficiently.”


Extending outdoor seating?

Meanwhile, town planner Mel Yemma informed the council that the restaurant COVID recovery industry subgroup met recently to begin talking about winter. She said that while turnout for the meeting was lean, the key takeaways “included trying to extend the outdoor dining season and looking into platforms, business ideas and more to build capacity for take-out and delivery.”

Clarifying indoor seating capacity also needed to be prioritized as winter approached. Yemma said the Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce has developed a Dinner Delivery Club as well as an online ordering platform for chamber members to join.

Yemma said the town staff has been brainstorming ways to extend the outdoor dining season. It is expected that visitors will be flocking to Crested Butte into October. She asked the council to allow restaurants temporary use of tents or fabric structures on private property. That would normally require BOZAR approval. The tents will have to be located on private property and not in town rights of way. The council agreed to waive that requirement.

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