The biggest story in 2020 locally and globally was the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch how the community responded to the initial crisis and provided crucial support for local businesses.
2020 saw a national outcry for racial justice, equity and police accountability. Learn more about Fort Collins' local response and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Cameron Peak Fire
This year the largest wildfire in Colorado history burned in Fort Collins' backyard. Hear how crews from across the country joined local responders to fight the fire and keep the community safe.
2020 Report to the Community#
2020 was a year unlike any other. Fort Collins responded to the COVID-19 crisis, devastating wildfires, and important calls for social justice – while also continuing to deliver 24/7 municipal services. The report below highlights some of the City’s significant accomplishments from 2020.
After proclaiming a local emergency in March, the City temporarily modified several policies to support local businesses as they adapted. These included:
- Creating outdoor dining spaces in the public right-of-way in Downtown Fort Collins to allow restaurants to expand their seating and carry-out options.
- Converting some parking spaces to curbside pickup spots and allowing businesses to post temporary signs or banners.
- Suspending parking enforcement for non-safety violations and allowing users to park for three hours free in parking structures through the summer.
- Permitting houses of worship to hold drive-up services.
The City also modified municipal operations to protect public and staff health and safety:
- Most City of Fort Collins facilities closed to the public in mid-March and remained closed through the Stay-at-Home order.
- To reduce the number of employees entering facilities and help provide adequate physical distance, all City staff whose duties permitted transitioned to remote work.
- Staff modified operations to provide as many services as possible online or over the phone, and shifted to limited appointments for those that had to take place in person. After the initial closures lifted in the late spring, the City resumed more limited in-person services.
- Customer service counters in places like Utilities and the Development Review Center continue to offer efficient, high quality remote services, as well as in-person service with safety protocols in place for customers and staff.
- City Council shifted to remote Council meetings and work sessions in order to continue to conduct City business while following public health guidelines. As restrictions lifted over the summer, hybrid meetings allowed Council and community members to participate remotely or in person, following appropriate safety measures.
- Public engagement methods for several key projects also shifted to primarily digital methods, with several online forums, surveys and other opportunities for community members to weigh in on initiatives like the City budget, Our Climate Future, the Housing Strategic Plan and more.
- Recreation and Cultural facilities shifted to online programming to provide creative, educational and wellness opportunities to the community.
- As it became clear that the Stay-at-Home order and other business restrictions would also have a significant impact on sales tax revenue, the City worked to reduce 2020 expenses by $20 million. Staff also shifted to develop a one-year operating budget for 2021 that included an additional $13 million reduction with an emphasis on maintaining service levels where possible and strategic investments in capital projects, Council priorities and equity advancement.
- The City’s internal services—information technology, human resources, communications and facility operations—provided vital equipment, network access, policy modifications, employee support services, internal and external information, facility modifications and work station equipment, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and much more to support the organization’s efforts to maintain community services while preserving health and safety.
- Throughout the year, the City of Fort Collins was able to continue with the municipal services the community depends on: electricity, water, public safety, street maintenance, traffic control, parks maintenance, snow plowing, and much more.
The City of Fort Collins received approximately $9 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March, which helped fund a variety of efforts to support pandemic response and recovery.
- Approximately 40% of the funding supported human service projects, including programs offered by local nonprofits and some City programs such as VirtuVisit, which helps connect isolated seniors with family, medical personnel and other needed services.
- Approximately $900,000 went to local nonprofits to help provide rental assistance for more than 300 households, expanded childcare, remote learning support, food security, and COVID-19 testing.
- Nearly $500,000 was used to assist residential and business customers with overdue utility bills.
- More than 200 businesses received funds to help off-set the cost of sanitation and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- In total, more than 2/3 of the funds went to small businesses, nonprofits and local community programs, while the remaining 1/3 supported the City’s ability to continue to safely deliver municipal services (PPE, enhanced cleaning, equipment needed to ensure safe operations, etc.).
- The CARES dashboard includes the most current information about fund disbursement and the impact of the dollars spent.
- An internal working team identified vulnerable and susceptible populations in the community, distributed a COVID-19 Community Resource brochure, and strengthened relationships with community organizations that serve vulnerable segments of the population.
- While the Northside Aztlan Community Center was closed to the public in the spring, the City worked with non-profit partners and service providers to establish a 24/7 shelter for people experiencing homelessness. The size of the center accommodated physical distancing requirements while providing safe shelter for those in need.
- After Northside reopened as a recreation center, the City partnered with a local nonprofits and rented space for overnight and daytime shelter during inclement weather starting in the fall.
- No utility disconnects have occurred for non-payment since the crisis began. Almost $500,000 of CARES funding was distributed to residential and business customers to assist with overdue bills.
- Neighborhood Services and FCVolunteer partnered to expand the Adopt-a-Neighbor program, pairing residents in need with neighbors who could help with tasks like grocery pick-up, snow shoveling and pet care.
- VirtuVisit pairs seniors with a free tablet device and a volunteer tech buddy to help them connect digitally with loved ones.
- In April, Fort Collins Connexion partnered with Poudre School District to deploy wireless broadband solutions to four mobile home communities that did not have adequate internet access, enabling students to access online education resources.
2020 was an especially challenging year for the Fort Collins’s local businesses and non-profits, and the City helped businesses quickly adapt to the “new normal” and keep their doors open.
- NoCoRecovers.com and ForFortCollins.com were created in partnership with Larimer County and local business organizations to house everything from information about re-opening safely and available relief funds, to marketing materials and a social media post generator.
- Through CARES, the City awarded more than 200 businesses with funding to help off-set the cost of sanitation and PPE equipment when they reopened.
- The City partnered with NoCo Nosh, a local food delivery service, to encourage the community to order take-out from local restaurants. The City paid the delivery fee and the operations cost for the service, helping restaurants keep more of the profit from each order.
- Art in Public Places hired local artists to paint 15 murals on the newly placed concrete barriers used to define and protect expanded outdoor dining areas, contributing to a fun and welcoming atmosphere.
- The regional Keep NoCo Open campaign provided signs, social media content, and seasonal messaging reminding community members of the steps to take to promote public health, keep case counts low, and allow Northern Colorado businesses to reopen.
- The City is collaborating on an online Telework Toolkit for local businesses and organizations to use if they choose to work toward increased telework in the future. The effort is being assisted in part by a Colorado Department of Transportation grant, and is expected to launch in early 2021.
Transfort has responded to the pandemic with significant flexibility, following national best practices while keeping many transit services operational.
- After a significant ridership drop in the early days of the pandemic, Transfort cut lower-used routes and encouraged the use of Dial-a-Ride service on those routes.
- Buses are disinfected and cleaned nightly.
- Fares were dropped in early March for all services, and riders enter buses from the rear door, both of which help minimize contact with operators.
- Regional FLEX service resumed in June, and Transfort has been making route adjustments as needed.
- Transfort limited buses to half capacity in early November due to new state guidance.
As the pandemic increased the need for safe and accessible childcare throughout the year, the Recreation Department worked quickly to adapt programs, secure locations and instructors, and develop a comprehensive strategy to implement new COVID-19 protocols.
- Throughout the summer, Camp FunQuest programs hosted more than 900 children, many who participated through the Reduced Fee Program.
- In the fall, programs transitioned to offer licensed childcare for children ages 3-12, and ongoing support for those doing virtual learning and enrichment classes.
In October of 2020, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery opened the groundbreaking special exhibition Mental Health: Mind Matters. The exhibit's goal is to build a greater understanding of the importance of mental health and create a safe for important conversations about mental illness. Thanks to presenting sponsor Larimer County Behavioral Health Services with additional support from the City of Fort Collins and others, the museum and the trilingual exhibit were free to experience for all in the community.
This year, the Fort Collins community celebrated a Fourth of July holiday filled with non-traditional, COVID-responsible, physically-distanced activities such as a hot air balloon launch, airplane parade, musical pop-up performances, and a “Chalk Your Walk” contest. While events surely looked different than in years past, there were still many opportunities to celebrate the holiday and the amazing community. The holiday’s success also inspired the first ever FoCo Pop Up event in September, which included musicians, booths and self-guided activities for a series of COVID-conscious events across Fort Collins. The City plans to have other FoCo Pop Up events in the future.
With nearly all indoor activity suspended during the Stay-at-Home order and restricted following, the City’s outdoor activities saw record use.
- While the City’s three municipal golf courses closed early in the year due to COVID-19, all three were able to reopen in April with safety protocols in place.
- Courses continued to host golfers throughout 2020, resulting in a banner year for golf with more than 84,000 18-hole rounds played between Collindale, Southridge and City Park Nine.
- Data from trailhead counters shows that the community’s natural areas experienced a 94% increase in visits from March through May, compared to the same time period in 2019.
- Surrounding trail closures and community-wide COVID-19 restrictions continue to make City of Fort Collins natural areas much-needed destinations for respite, recreation, and connection to nature.
Racial Justice & Equity#
As part of the City’s efforts to advance equitable outcomes for all, leading with race, CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG) was selected to lead the Equity Indicators project and establish a framework for measuring and understanding equality gaps in Fort Collins and how they change over time. Equity indicators are one tool local governments can use to measure and track the experiences of equality among community members to more proactively address systems that perpetuate racism and/or oppression. After data has been collected and equity indicators have been chosen, the City will create an external-facing dashboard to enhance accountability and transparency for its equity efforts. This dashboard will be available early in 2021.
City Council created the Ad Hoc Community Impact Committee in June with an overall purpose of ensuring that the City is creating an environment that provides safety and equity for all residents. The committee is made up of three Councilmembers and will advise City Council about potential future actions.
In response to increased community questions and concerns, Fort Collins Police Services (FCPS) developed a transparency webpage to make information easily accessible. FCPS also announced the formation of a collaborative community advisory initiative to evaluate engagement and service delivery, with an emphasis on communities of color, LGBTQIA+ and historically underserved populations.
FCPS developed a Police Co-Responder Team focused on behavioral health issues to help address community needs at the intersection of safety and mental health. Two officers with additional, specialized training will accompany the UCHealth CORE team (co-responder and community paramedic) on calls related to mental and behavioral health.
Cameron Peak Fire#
- The fire included several periods of extreme fire behavior and rapid spread rates, spurred by high temperatures, low humidity, challenging terrain, and wind gusts reaching more than 70 mph. The tremendous amount of beetle kill trees and the drought-stricken forest also contributed.
- Poudre Fire Authority (PFA) firefighters responded on day one, and were shortly joined by a force of highly trained responders from at least 46 states and Puerto Rico. The response included more than 2,000 people at the fire’s peak and included career and volunteer wildland firefighters, forestry experts, communication specialists, meteorologists, and more as part 10 highest-level incident management teams.
- PFA’s involvement was the highest in mid-October when the fire entered the PFA jurisdiction and the Otter Road Spot Fire threatened people, animals and property in Redstone Canyon. Some rural parts of PFA’s jurisdiction had mandatory and voluntary evacuations while firefighters spent day and night, monitoring the situation, building fire lines, protecting structures, and physically standing guard. Firefighters helped pack bags, herded livestock, and dug lines through the night in protection of lives and property.
- The fire was 100% contained on Dec. 2 after 112 days of work on a 325-mile perimeter. The fire burned through 208,913 acres on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in Larimer and Jackson Counties and Rocky Mountain National Park.
- As of mid-December, 232 miles of suppression repair work was in progress or planned to return impacted areas to pre-fire conditions; this work will continue through the spring.
- The fire burned through Bobcat Ridge Natural Area in October. Thanks to firefighters’ hard work, the ranger residence and historic buildings at Bobcat Ridge were spared. The natural area will remain closed for visitor safety and for site recovery until summer 2021.
The location of the fire high up the Poudre Canyon required Fort Collins Utilities to closely monitor the City’s high-mountain water infrastructure. Fortunately, it was not directly impacted, and Fort Collins’ drinking water quality was not affected. Because of the intensity and large amount of burned areas in the watershed, it is anticipated that there will be some water quality issues during runoff season this spring and beyond. Concentrated collaboration efforts for water quality mitigation between regional water districts and federal and state organizations began before the fire was contained and will continue into the future.
Fort Collins Connexion continues to build out across Fort Collins, with new neighborhoods being turned up weekly, and construction is on target for completion in Q4 2022. To date, Connexion has installed 378 miles of fiber, 5,205 vaults, and
11,105 flowerpots (i.e., small vaults).
- Connexion service, which includes gigabit speed internet (up to 10 Gbps) and phone, now also has TV available for customers. Connexion TV is a streaming service that works with Apple and Android devices as well as Amazon Fire TV and Firestick. A set-top box is also available. Connexion TV offers three packages with a robust channel lineup, along with sports and Spanish-language add-ons and premium channels like HBO, Showtime and more. More information is available at fcconnexion.com/residential-tv.
- Fort Collins Connexion continues to build out across Fort Collins, with new neighborhoods being turned up weekly, and construction is on target for completion in Q4 2022. To date, Connexion has installed 378 miles of fiber, 5,205 vaults, and
- The updated Housing Strategic Plan establishes a vision that everyone in Fort Collins will have healthy, stable housing they can afford. The plan is a comprehensive guide to the City’s housing policy and goals, and creates a framework for investments in the community’s housing system.
- Home2Health: This collaborative, two-year project led by the City and several community organizations, will identify and implement updates to policies, codes and regulations to improve housing affordability in Fort Collins with a specific emphasis on health equity. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the important link between stable housing and health. The project team hosted more than 35 workshops and discussions, engaging nearly 450 community members. The community dialogue from this project will also shape the updated Housing Strategic Plan in 2021.
- The City partnered with local nonprofits to rent space to shelter people experiencing homelessness during inclement weather.
- Homeward 2020 was a collaborative, strategic think-tank guiding implementation of Fort Collins’ 10-Year Plan to Make Homelessness Rare, Short-Lived and Non-Recurring by setting priorities, developing alignment and action plans, and suggesting policy from 2009-2020. Together, we made progress by using best practices and strengthening coordinated responses to end homelessness. In 2020, following implementation of the final phase of Fort Collins' 10-Year Plan, Homeward 2020 capitalized on the organization’s decade of disciplined research and system development, application of key evidence-based models, data collection, consultation with local and national experts, and ongoing, collaborative community work.
- Our Climate Future: This planning initiative is centered in equity and will update three important community environmental plans: the Climate Action Plan, the Road to Zero Waste and the Energy Policy. This project completed its third and final round of community engagement in 2020. This plan update will design equitable solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve renewable electricity and energy efficiency, and achieve waste reduction goals. City Council will consider adopting the plan in early 2021.
- Single-Use Plastics: City Council has identified reducing plastic pollution in the community as a priority and is gathering community input to help inform a possible plastics reduction ordinance and ballot measure. Prioritizing plastic pollution, specifically single-use plastic pollution, will help protect the health of the Cache la Poudre River and make progress on the community’s zero waste and climate action goals.
- Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP): In October, Northern Water and the Bureau of Reclamation undertook this important infrastructure maintenance project to repair and upgrade the Soldier Canyon Dam outlet. During construction, Fort Collins did not have access to Horsetooth water and relied on Poudre River water only. Temporary water restrictions were implemented to ensure Utilities could continue to meet customer water demand through the combined impacts of the Cameron Peak Fire, drought conditions and HOP; the community responded by reducing average daily outdoor water use by 2 million gallons.
- Joe Wright Reservoir: To ensure the City’s high-mountain water delivery system was fully operational during HOP when only Poudre River was available, repair and replacement of valves at the Joe Wright Reservoir outlet were necessary. The confined-space work in the Poudre Canyon was dangerous and filled with logistical challenges exacerbated by the Cameron Peak Fire and COVID safety precautions. The project was completed safely, on time and within budget.
- Remington Street Utility Repairs: An undersized stormwater system and aging sanitary mains were replaced in Remington Street from February to August 2020. The project improved wastewater operations, drainage and flood protection in the neighborhood. By providing a larger capacity stormwater connection from the Prospect& College intersection to Spring Creek, it also will reduce flooding issues at this major intersection.
- Parks & Recreation Master Plan: Over the last year, staff has been working with a consultant team, stakeholders, and the community to thoroughly assess Fort Collins’ system of parks and recreation facilities. The result of this work is an imaginative and comprehensive Fort Collins Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The final plan, which is expected to be adopted in early 2021, examines park and recreation needs in the context of the City’s extensive system of public spaces, and articulates an ambitious, yet attainable, vision for parks and recreation in the future. To implement this vision, the plan weaves together strategies, guidelines, and decision-making tools that the City can use as a road map to shape the future of the parks and recreation system.
- Northwest Trail Improvements: FC Moves, along with Parks, Recreation, Park Planning, and Natural Areas, opened the Northwest Trail Improvements with a formal ribbon cutting on Aug. 11. The improvements included a new paved trail from the Poudre Trail to Vine Drive via Lincoln Middle School, upgraded bike and pedestrian facilities and crossings on Vine Drive, and a new soft surface trail through the newly opened Puente Verde Natural Area. As part of the celebration, Natural Areas and FC Moves also held a virtual scavenger hunt for the public to experience the new trail.
- Eastside Park Improvements: In 2020, the City of Fort Collins celebrated completion of improvements at Eastside Park. Thanks to a generous donation from community partner, First United Methodist Church, the park received significant upgrades and repairs. Managed by Park Planning & Development, notable improvements to the park include safer pathway lighting, new seating and planting areas, updated park identification signs, new benches, picnic tables, bike racks, BBQ grills, and a new soft surface pathway. A small ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Eastside Park to recognize and celebrate the improvements and partnership with First United Methodist Church.
- The new 1.8-mile Ridge to Ridge Trail connects the City of Loveland’s new Prairie Ridge Natural Area and the City of Fort Collins’s Coyote Ridge Natural Area on the west side of town, offering wildlife and wildflower viewing.
The City continues to evolve its approach to public engagement with a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion. As part of these efforts, staff focused on promoting language accessibility for community members across City departments, organized several community meetings in conjunction with community partners who serve historically underserved groups, and advised different service areas on how to embed equity, diversity and inclusion in public engagement processes for different City projects.
Northern Colorado’s steep population growth has increasingly impacted emergency services, leading local law enforcement agencies to collaborate on the Combined Regional Information Systems Project (CRISP). Completed in 2020, CRISP unifies service providers under one software system to more effectively manage records, centralize jail booking information, and provide enhanced dispatch services across the region.
Preliminary work and planning has continued on the Vine and Lemay overpass project, with construction planned for 2021. The new overpass will allow traffic to avoid the railroad crossing on Lemay Avenue, drastically reducing delays in the area.
The Linden Street Renovation Project was originally scheduled to begin in 2020 but was delayed to January 2021 in order to minimize effects on businesses following the COVID-19 outbreak. In the last quarter of 2020, the City made the decision to postpone the bulk of the project, but continue with minor improvements in early 2021. The rest of the Linden project will be completed at a later date, and the improvements scheduled for 2021 will lay the groundwork for those renovations. The City continues to work closely with businesses and organizations along the corridor in decision-making.
The first Shift Your Ride Month was originally scheduled to be held in June, with a focus on biking, walking and transit, with tie-ins to existing event, like Bike to Work Day and National Trails Day. However, due to COVID-19, the team pivoted to a more virtual experience in September, while laying the groundwork to promote and celebrate alternative modes of transportation in future years.
The City’s Mediation and Restorative Justice (MRJ) Program celebrated its 20th anniversary in October.
- The Mediation program has helped hundreds of residents address community conflict in ways that both avoid going to court and help repair broken relationships.
- Restorative Justice helps provide court diversion for youth who commit crimes in the community.
- In 2020, MRJ served 75 mediation participants and 103 restorative justice participants.
- The Mediation and Restorative Justice Programs are supported by more than 60 trained, skilled volunteers who donate 2,500 hours per year of time to the combined programs.
Traffic began additional educational efforts in early 2020 regarding ongoing train issues and created a new webpage for comprehensive train information at fcgov.com/trains. Signs were created and installed at major train crossings asking drivers to report blocked crossings to a new Federal Railroad Administration tracking tool.