Park Rangers share trail safety tips after series of hiker rescues

GOLDEN, Colo. — It’s finally that time of your where Coloradans and tourists can stretch their legs from hibernation, and hit trails across the Centennial State.

“These first warm days we get a lot of folks that have been sort of taking the winter off coming into the trails,” said Jefferson County Open Space Park Ranger Mary Ann Bonnell.

This season, an estimated seven million people will walk on JeffCo trails like North Table Mountain, and it’s Bonnell’s job to make sure all of them stay safe. That includes their four-legged companions.

“As you’re getting out for the first time, you’re more susceptible to heat and so is your dog,” Bonnell said.

When it comes to rock climbing, Bonnell tells the Problem Solvers some common mistakes can lead to injury.

“Failure to tie knots, failure to properly communicate, distractions, and lack of proper safety wear like helmets,” Bonnell said.

She also warns about the dangers of going off trail. You could step on something like a cactus, or even stumble across a rattle snake this time of year. Another danger, getting lost. Bonnell says keep in mind which trailhead you parked at, and the trail you are on.

“We’ve actually had people report parks that don’t exist, trailheads that don’t exist and trails that don’t exist, so it becomes this guessing game,” Bonnell said.

Park Rangers will write you a ticket if you’re breaking the rules. The Problem Solvers asked several first responder agencies how much taxpayer money is spent on a single rescue operations, after at least four hikers had to be rescued over the past three days. It’s not an easy question to answer; most first responders that assist are already on the clock, and in rural areas some of those people are volunteers. The bigger concern is the rescues draw resources away from other emergencies in their jurisdiction.

“It’s not so much for us the fees or the cost that’s associated with the search and rescue, it’s the danger that you’re putting those other rescuers in,” Bonnell said.

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