By Jamie Leary

(CBS4) – Waitlists for summer camps in Colorado’s high country began growing the moment registration opened, but directors want families to know that if you haven’t signed up, not all is lost.

“In a normal year, typically we have about 650 camp spots last year we had 260, this year we have 322,” said Paul Abling, Marketing and communications director for the Walking Mountains Science Center.

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There’s no doubt things this summer are looking much better, but capacity restrictions are still in place for camps, and demand is higher than ever.

At the Walking Mountains Science Center in Eagle County, registration was full for every program within 27 minutes. The wait list is now at more than 300 families but Abling is confident they will eventually be able to meet pre-pandemic numbers.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for potentially increasing capacities, public health orders change so we are optimistic that we are going to be able to increase capacity and we will start with the waitlist first,” said Abling.

At the Keystone Science School in Summit County, it’s a similar situation. Day programs were full within 5 minutes of opening.

“It has been a big challenge for us because the last thing we want to do is turn parents and kids away from any summer programing,” said Dave Miller, Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at the Keystone Science School.

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While Summit County COVID cases are once again rising, like most, the Keystone Science School has learned to adapt.

“If we can find more space, if we can create safe places and we can hire and train qualified staff, then we can increase capacity, and these are all things that we’re exploring,” Miller continued, “Some of the strategies that we’re putting in place this year is just to buy more large canvas tents so we have more indoor space so we can keep physical space.”

For those who can’t get into the program they want, nearly every camp CBS4 spoke with says the waitlist is the way to go.

“I feel like everything has changed since last March so we’re asking parents just to sign up for a waitlist or find a program that does have space, like our Discovery Adventure Expedition program,” said Miller.

Camps across the high country are also in communication with one another to ensure parents and kids get the break they deserve.

“There’s communication between different entities about who has availability, and there’s communication throughout the community about how to work with public health guidelines to make sure that we’re offering a safe experience,” said Abling.

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Camps are also looking at vaccination rates as a way to gauge capacity. Colorado residents older than 16 years will be eligible for vaccinations soon. Regulators could also clear the way for children 12 and older to start getting vaccinated before the fall.

Jamie Leary