Updated 5/5/2022 at 7:40 a.m.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved Wednesday a pilot period for a timed vehicle entry system in Eldorado Canyon State Park. Officials have not voted on when reservations will begin to go on sale, but they are expected to be required to enter the park starting in August and running through mid-September. Park capacity has been set to 200 vehicles for weekends and holidays.
Our original story continues below.
Visits to Eldorado Canyon State Park have nearly doubled over the last five years, leading state wildlife officials to consider implementing a timed entry program similar to the one in use at Rocky Mountain National Park.
If approved, Eldorado Canyon would be the first state park with a reservation system of this kind. The proposed timed entry program would require visitors to purchase a day pass for their vehicle ahead of time. The occupants would then be able to enter the park during a two-hour window of their choosing.
Reservations would only be required during weekends and state holidays. Those using the shuttle service, which makes stops in Boulder and nearby RTD Park-n-Rides, will not need to make a reservation. Visitors in late fall and winter would also be exempt.
During a Colorado Parks and Wildlife meeting Wednesday, officials called increased traffic to the park and Eldorado Springs “unsustainable.” Even with the help of a shuttle service into the park, staff have reported significant congestion in the area, especially on weekends and holidays.
More than half a million people visited the park in 2020, nearly double the number of visitors in 2016. Officials said visitation remains high and probably won’t drop off anytime soon.
Scott Roush, CPW’s deputy regional manager for the northeast region, said previous efforts to reduce traffic have failed.
“We've tried checkpoints last year,” he said. “They're just not sustainable.”
If approved by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, the timed entry program will begin in July and run until 2023. At the end of its two-year trial period, commissioners would evaluate its effectiveness and choose whether to keep it permanently. The plan sets aside 10 percent of a day’s allotted permits for day-of purchases.
Eldorado Canyon park manager John Carson said they surveyed nearby residents before proposing timed entry.
“They are in agreement that it would help alleviate some of the stress and the volume of traffic and hopefully improve the safety concerns that the community has,” Carson said.
Commissioners will likely vote on adopting the program at their next meeting in May.
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