A Discussion with the Executive Director of Dinosaur Ridge
You reopened on Saturday, May 9. How did you decide on that date? What happened within the organization to make the reopening go forward?
We decided to re-open on Saturday, May 9 because that’s when Jefferson County let its “Stay At Home” order expire. We wanted to be quick out of the gate, both for the public to have something to get out and do and to look forward to, and to start giving our staff jobs to come back to. We started planning about two weeks ahead of time, thinking that Jeffco might come into alignment with the state at some point, and we didn’t want to be flat-footed when that happened. So, since late April, we’ve been discussing reopening strategies and safety measures.
What NEW precautions and protocols have you implemented to align with Colorado’s Safer-at-Home? What were your priorities?
The list is long! First, our staff and volunteers are required to wear masks at all times, take and record their temperature when they arrive at work, go home immediately if they aren’t feeling well, wash their hands every hour, and wipe down surfaces with disinfectants regularly. For our visitors, we are requiring masks in all indoor spaces (buses, exhibit halls, gift shops), only allowing certain numbers of groups at a time inside our gift shops and exhibit halls, and limiting group sizes to two in our gift shops and exhibit halls. We are also requiring social distancing and making more hand-washing and hand sanitizing options available. We’ve also installed plexiglass at each of our counters. And that’s just the start!
What has been the staff’s and volunteers’ reaction to reopening?
Staff and volunteers are happy that we’re re-opened. Of course, many have had questions about our safety measures, but they have also contributed ideas that we’ve adopted! In the meantime, they have expressed a certain satisfaction that we can serve the public again. Our site and experience really add vitality to the community.
How have you changed and/or modified programs and activities? Have you created new programs?
We’ve really had to re-think a lot of what we do. Of course, with school closures, schools aren’t coming out right now. Our gift shop can only have a certain number of people in at a time, and same with our exhibit halls. Our buses are seeing the greatest change—either people need to rent a bus tour privately, or we need to have two smaller socially distanced parties. No more 14-passenger tours, unfortunately, but people have been understanding.
Our new programs are very exciting! We have put together both audio tours and virtual tours that we think are both dynamite! The virtual tours are just being sent to schools, and the audio tours have been purchased by walkers on the Ridge who don’t feel quite comfortable getting into buses yet. We’re also looking at putting our TriceraTOTs program for preschoolers online!
Finally, our summer camps are moving forward! The state has said that we have to organize them a little differently (groups of 10 max instead of our usual 23) so we’re working hard on that and are working closely with the state and peer organizations to be ready for our first campers on June 1.
How did the first weekend go? What did you learn? Are you making any adjustments based on visitor experiences?
Our first weekend was about what we expected—a little slow, as people are still tentative about getting out, which is understandable. But there was a real energy in our parking lot and on the Ridge. We did have shoppers, tour bus riders, audio tour listeners, and more. A lot of people had a lot of questions, and expressed that they were so happy to just be there! We’re not making any major adjustments yet, because it was only two days and people are still processing what they want to start getting out to do.
What do you think/hope the summer will bring to Dinosaur Ridge? Colorado?
We hope, like everyone, that summer will be back to our normal visitation numbers—great crowds, lots of people of all ages from all over. We’d love that. But we also know that that may not happen. Moreover, we know that that can only happen if the number of COVID-19 cases is very low and there are other precautions in place. People have to feel safe. We’re doing everything we can on our end to make that happen, but we realize there’s a greater social context and perception as well. So, even if we don’t get our usual crowds, I think our hope is that we’re still a place of wonder and awe and learning, where people can go for a respite and feel safe, even if our numbers are lower.
As always, I welcome insight and feedback as we all venture out after a considerable time indoors.
May 15, 2020