FORT COLLINS, Colo. — People are back outside and they’re enjoying it.
“Today, in particular, a lot of the wildflowers have bloomed and it’s a little bit cooler today,” said Dave Kazmirski, a hiker out on a trail. “It just feels good to get out in the fresh air."
As COVID-19 restrictions are easing, people are spending more time outdoors. Last year, 237 million people visited national parks. That’s a big number, but it’s more than 90 million fewer people than visited in 2019.
2021 is already outpacing 2019 at parks like Yellowstone, where visits are up 14%.
That uptick has some preparing for more accidents when people are outside.
“We expect just more volume of people outside this year than were last year, and accidents happen,” said Theron Risinger.
Risinger runs the Banner Health emergency department in Greeley, Colorado.
“Lots of crazy stuff that we always see in the ER,” he said. “Helmets are really important, ATVs are really dangerous, especially like three-wheelers, and boat propellers and lawnmowers, you have to be really careful around both of those things.”
Risinger and his staff are bracing for more injuries this summer as more and more people start traveling and returning to the outdoors. But he hopes people will use their best judgment to stay safe.
“You’re on a bike, on a skateboard, you know, having your helmet on. If you’re out hiking, it’s making sure you have water and sunscreen, and someone knows where you are. If you’re boating, make sure you have a life jacket on. If you’re operating any machinery, making sure you’re not intoxicated,” Risinger said.
According to the National Safety Council, biking, exercising equipment, and ATVs cause the most injuries in the US.
But hikers on the trails are hoping for a safer summer.
“Everybody that we’ve seen around here seems pretty safe,” said Kazmirski.
“I think people just use common sense, just as you would previously. I don’t think there’s a difference now,” said Stefani Piotrowksi, another hiker.
But if you haven’t been as active during the pandemic, make sure you ease back into your usual activities.
“Certainly, if you were really out of shape, you know, making sure you go into it slowly, that you kind of walk before you run and kind of get back into shape,” said Risinger.
Risinger says his department isn’t necessarily expecting more heart attacks or injuries due to fatigue, but they are ready for it.
So, get back outside and enjoy the summer, but use common sense and try not to push it too hard your first couple of times back on a dusty trail.