On Friday afternoon at Lyons’ LaVern M. Johnson park, families spread out on picnic blankets, parents fished sodas covered in condensation out of coolers and children in water shoes ran back and forth from the river carrying inflatable tubes.
But a family called 9-1-1 because they couldn’t locate a 10-year-old child that was with them.
Even though the child was found, a small fire truck pulled into the park down the one long dirt driveway and to the roundabout loading area so first responders could make sure everything was OK.
Lyons town officials are changing some of the rules for the sprawling park in order to allow for just this type of thing — first responders accessing the crowded park quickly in the case of an emergency.
The park, with its renovated campsites, ball fields, tubing, play areas and picnic areas has become a summertime draw for people from all over the region, especially as more people learn about Lyons through the town’s wedding and events industry.
The crowds got especially dense on the Fourth of July and first responders raised concerns that the situation was potentially dangerous. In response, town officials are implementing five policy changes at the park designed to keep the crowds under control, Lyons Mayor Connie Sullivan posted to her Facebook page Thursday.
• The park will be considered at capacity when all the parking spaces are taken
• Visitors either in vehicles or on foot toting coolers will not be allowed to enter the park when the park is at capacity
• Visitors without coolers may enter the park when the park is at capacity
• Non-emergency vehicles will not be allowed to idle in the access lanes
• Lyons will provide one trash bag per vehicle upon entry into the park so visitors can pack out large amounts of trash
Sullivan said that there has been a “parking full” sign on the gate at the park for about a year now, but that people just parked along the road outside the park and walked in, exacerbating overcrowding issues. All of the parking at the park is paid.
“We don’t want to give the impression that we don’t want people to come to Lyons and use the parks,” Sullivan said. “We’re a welcoming community and we love sharing spaces with visitors and we are accustomed to that.
“But we want to make sure the park is looking good and people have a positive experience when they come here, and the overcrowding really takes away from that,” she said.
Sullivan added that on the Fourth, Boulder County Sheriff’s deputies told town officials that there was an altercation in the park and they had a hard time responding because of the parking situation.
“There were so many cars lined up on the access road trying to go in and turn around that you couldn’t go in and out,” Sullivan said. “There’s one way in and out of the park, so from a safety perspective if we had to get everybody out of there for some reason, there’s only the one way out. People can’t spread out from there and go in many different directions.”
People relaxing at the park on Friday thought the policy changes sounded reasonable.
“We saw the mayor’s Facebook post and were worried that it would be too busy today, but we decided to come anyway and the lot wasn’t so full that you couldn’t get in,” Lafayette resident Niki Weaver said from her blanket in the shade, where she lounged with her Chihuahua China.
Niki Weaver’s husband Brant Weaver added that limiting the number of people at the park at one time can save people the hassle of driving around looking for parking.
Haven Noble, of Longmont, said that she thought limiting the capacity of the park was a little concerning but said the rule about not idling in the access lanes was reasonable.
“It sounds good except the not letting people in thing is not a great idea,” she said. When the fire truck arrived in the roundabout, she added “See, they can get in easily enough today and it’s busy today.”
Lisa Garbett, of Brighton, said her husband knew about the park because he has been coming there since he was a boy. Garbett said she understands the capacity policy change and that it sounded reasonable to her.
“When the parking lot is full, absolutely that should be enough people,” she said, but pointed to a nearby trash and recycling receptacle that park staff had cordoned off with a sign asking people to pack out their own trash.
“That, I don’t understand, though,” she said.
Sullivan said that she wasn’t aware that crews were placing the signs on the receptacles and it was a misunderstanding. Once the Times-Call brought it to her and to Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen’s attention, Sullivan said the signs would be removed.
“That wasn’t intended to be done so it will be corrected,” Sullivan said. “Our intention was that people coming in as a group for a picnic with coolers, that each car would be given a trash bag. But of course, individuals may need to throw away a can here or there or a paper product.”
Sullivan added that the bear-proof trash, recycling, compost and hot coal receptacles are not exactly cheap.
“We spent a lot of money bear-proofing the trash cans, so it wouldn’t make sense not to use them,” she said.
Karen Antonacci: 303-684-5226, email@example.com or twitter.com/ktonacci