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Eldorado Springs parking sparks new wildfire concerns

Cars line the highway near park, open space
Eldorado Springs parking
Posted at 10:32 PM, Apr 18, 2022

ELDORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Just down the road from Eldorado Canyon State Park's stunning views, Joshua Alpern says the view from his home is of the crowds.

"We've counted on more than one occasion more than 100 cars collectively on both sides of the street," said Alpern, who lives on Eldorado Springs Drive, which is also known as Colorado 170. "It's becoming a little more urgent for us because my 80-year-old mother is afraid to pull out of the driveway when it's crowded here."

Alpern says that since cars are not allowed to park on the side of the highway near the open space trailheads or outside the state park, they instead park on the highway near his home.

But it's not just the traffic that has him concerned. It's the fact that twice in the last three months, Alpern says he has been evacuated because of wildfires. He is worried now that the cars parking on dry grass by the highway could spark another fire.

"It's scary. I mean, I have PTSD from it," said Alpern, who says he has been advocating for change, but has been given little assurance. "Literally everybody from CDOT to the sheriff, state representatives, the commissioners, and they all usually tell us a different story."

He reached out to Contact Denver7, and we found parking in the area has been a concern for years.

Michelle Krezek, chief of staff for the Boulder County Commissioners' Office, wrote in an email that the issue is complicated and multi-layered.

"The State of Colorado, CDOT and Department of Parks and Wildlife, Boulder County (Commissioners' Office, Community Planning and Permitting, Public Works, Parks and Open Space and the Sheriff's Office) as well as the City of Boulder (Open Space and Mountain Parks) have been meeting very regularly for two years to work on the issues associated with the visitation and traffic in Eldorado Springs," Krezek wrote. "Each of our agencies understand and appreciate the concerns of the residents, who live in proximity to a very popular State Park and popular Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Trails, along a State Highway and off a private road. We have done significant work to look for solutions."

Krezek wrote that the area is popular for recreation and includes a private resort, but Boulder County has worked to make some changes, including a free shuttle service.

Officials created a traffic check-point to stop traffic if there are no parking spaces at the state park, keeping cars from driving through the town to the park, only to be turned away and have to again drive through the town. The county also increased parking signage and enforcement of parking violations.

Most importantly, Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife is in the process of considering a reservation system for park visitation, which would help decrease the number of cars driving to the park.

"We continue to work together to refine our programs and look for other solutions to the complicated situation that is Eldorado Springs," Krezek wrote.

Meanwhile, a CDOT spokesman told Contact Denver7 that the agency is working to add fencing at the Park n Ride, and they are evaluating moving the open space trail entrance further from Highway 93 to make it safer.

Alpern fears a reservation system at the state park will only drive more people to the open space next to his home.

For now, he is taking matters into his own hands, placing logs on the side of the highway outside his home to discourage parking and no parking signs that "somehow" ended up in front of his property.

"Which is obviously illegal, and we can't do that," said Alpern. "But I would like for them to validate the fear that the residents are feeling here, especially with the fires. Because now, this isn't just a safety issue for people walking down the road. It's a safety issue of people may be having to leave their houses if a fire starts."

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