places of worship, zoo a step closer to opening
Colorado Springs places of worship and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo are a step closer to reopening after the El Paso County Board of Commissioners passed two variance requests Thursday.

The zoo variance was passed four-to-zero, with one commissioner abstaining and the request for places of worships passed unanimously.

The variance requests now head to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for final approval — marking the third and fourth El Paso County requests sent to the state for approval.

Here are the key takeaways from the two requests, according to a Thursday statement by El Paso County. 

For places of worship:Seating capacity and processes

·        Total occupancy limited to 25 percent of fire occupancy load
·        Seating structured to maintain six feet of distance and groups less than 10
·        Churches encouraged to obtain contact information from at least one person of each group Attendance and participation policies
·        Vulnerable individuals encouraged to utilize online services or participate in a separate room
·        Attendees strongly encouraged to wear cloth face coverings
·        Attendees are discouraged from participating in handshakes or other forms of physical contact 

Public health practices
·        Staff and volunteers required to wear cloth face coverings
·        No congregating in common areas
·        Staff should clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces between services
·        Doors are encouraged to remain open to promote maximum ventilation and air flow 

Use of sacraments
  • Communion should not be distributed by the passing of plates, common-use items, or other high-touch methods
·        Offerings shall not be obtained by passing collection items across groups 

For Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: Phase periods and restrictions

·        Phase I will be the first five (5) days the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is open to the public
o   Zoo will open to members only; timed tickets will be issued with a limit of 300 per hour
·         Phase II will be the nine-day period following Phase I
o    Timed tickets will continue to be issued with a limit of 300 per hour
·         Phase III will begin on the fifteenth day after opening to the public
  • Tickets without time restrictions will be available to both members and non-members, without hourly limitations
  • Off-site parking shuttles will not be utilized, effectively capping daily attendance to 4,000-4,500 — significantly less than the site capacity of almost 20,000
·        In Phases I and II, the following additional restrictions will apply
  • The main play area, the “crashed airplane” play space, and the historic carousel will be closed
  • A safety officer will be designated whose sole duties are to patrol the grounds and provide guidance and supplies to staff
  • Buildings will be open at 25 percent of stated capacity, up to a maximum of 50, with appropriate signage and marking to encourage social distancing
  • All activities in buildings that will cause congestion over the approved variance numbers will be managed, restricted, closed, or cancelled
  • Workspaces will be cleaned by staff between shifts
  • In Phase III, building capacity will be increased so long as six-foot distancing can be maintained and will be capped at 50. The cap may be raised up to 250 based upon coordination with Public Health
 Public health practices
  • Additional daily cleaning and disinfecting throughout the zoo in all guest areas
  • High-touch guest areas will be cleaned and disinfected more regularly
  • The Skyride (ski lift) and ADA-accessible tram will be open following proper cleaning and social distancing guidelines
  • Rental equipment such as wheelchairs will be cleaned and disinfected between each use
  • Restrooms will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day. Entry doors will be propped open when possible to allow touch-free entry and exit. Increased hygiene signage will be posted
  • Only water bottle fill stations will be available; drinking fountains will be closed
  • Signage and other tools such as spacing do’s, barricades and stanchions will be used to remind guests of social distancing and proper etiquette


Zach Hillstrom is a Colorado Springs native and graduate of Colorado State University-Pueblo. He has worked as a reporter for Southern Colorado print outlets since 2015.