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For first time, State Parks ponders reservation requirement to visit Eldorado Canyon State Park

Park's growing popularity leads to traffic jams
Posted at 7:23 PM, Sep 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 07:29:55-04

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ELDORADO CANYON STATE PARK, Colo. -- Visitors to Eldorado Canyon State Park can enjoy world class rock climbing as well as hiking trails, or they can picnic along peaceful South Boulder Creek.

But the park is so popular on summer weekends and three-day holidays, that traffic jams are becoming quite common.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Deputy Regional Manager Windi Padia said those traffic jams can create a safety hazard.

"In an emergency type situation," she said, "when we need a medical response into the park, our emergency service vehicles often have a hard time getting in... or have to go through the exit lane to get in."

Padia said the park's popularity has grown dramatically, along with Colorado's population. For years, she said, the number of visitors remained steady at about 250,000 per year.

In recent years, that number has mushroomed to more than 524,000.

Online Survey

In an effort to protect the park's resources and to make sure it remains an enjoyable experience for visitors, CPW is looking at creating a draft management plan.

The agency is conducting an online survey to ask the public what the plan should include.

Among the scenarios mentioned in the survey: should reservations be required? What about a shuttle system?


Park visitors have mixed emotions about possible changes.

"It is in some ways a bummer," said Kellen Wittkop, who said she has been coming to the park since she was a kid. "I think it's a good idea for the park system to think about how we manage the park, so it remains accessible and fun."

Wittkop noted that parking is at a premium.

"We've driven in, found there was no parking, so we had to drive back out, find a spot and walk in," she said.

"It gets incredibly busy," said park visitor Jenny Antin, while hiking on the Fowler/Rattlesnake Gulch Trail with a toddler in her backpack carrier. "There's always a parking issue. Even using the trail, we have to move over all the time. It's a little less enjoyable when there's a ton of people in here for sure."

Padia said there are only 204 general parking spaces in Eldorado Canyon, six handicap spots and four spots reserved for park staff.

Audrey Purdue said she wouldn't mind a shuttle system, but she is opposed to to the park requiring reservations.

"It's fun to be spontaneous," she said. "It's fun to come out and just do a picnic on a random day off."

Erin Hirstine said she wouldn't have a problem if the park began requiring reservations.

"If you're driving up from Denver, it would be a real bummer, even if you get here at 7:00 a.m., to find out that it's all taken and you have to turn around and drive back," she said.

Resource Stewardship

Padia said CPW's Draft Management Plan will include information about resource stewardship.

"We want people to come out and enjoy their state parks," she said. "We want folks to come out and enjoy Eldorado Canyon."

"What we're trying to do," she added, "is find a way to maximize vehicle safety, maximize people's enjoyment and maximize the protection of our resources, as they're coming out to enjoy the park."

Padia said the online survey will remain open through the end of September.

She said they will write a Draft Management Plan in early 2020 and will then open another public comment period about that plan.

"As a person who was born and raised in Colorado, it's something that we have to get used to," Wittkop said. "The secret's out, if you will."