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Colorado Parks and Wildlife seeks input on Eldorado Canyon parking

Two open houses will gather feedback on scenarios being weighed as part of park's visitor use management plan

University of Colorado graduate student Colin Chen adjust his rope while climbing at Eldorado Canyon State Park on Friday.
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The public will have an opportunity this month to chime in on possible parking scenarios for Eldorado Canyon State Park as a visitor use management plan is being crafted.

In March, Colorado Parks and Wildlife asked Boulder County Parks and Open Space and the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks to halt the planning process for the Eldorado Canyon-Walker Ranch connector trail until a visitor use management plan for Eldorado Canyon State Park is complete.

Jeanette Thacker, left, and Alicia Alvarez, both of Denver, cross over a bridge while hiking at Eldorado Canyon State Park on Friday.

Expected by the end of 2020, the visitor use management plan will set new policies for parking and consider ways to improve visitor experience amid concerns that additional traffic brought by a connector trail will overrun the state park’s infrastructure and negatively impact its environment.

As part of the management plan process, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is set to hold two public forums so staff can gather feedback on parking scenarios and hear community ideas. might have.

The first parking scenario being considered would require all visitors to the park from Labor Day to Memorial Day obtain a parking permit for their vehicle before their arrival.

While Windi Padia, the deputy regional manager at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said she and her staff are still working out the details and are open to ideas from the public, as it’s currently planned visitors could either purchase a four-hour, half-day parking permit, or an eight-hour full-day permit.

The second scenario is to institute a similar permitting process, but also operate a shuttle service with several stops around town.

Though neither option will necessarily stop people from parking illegally, which many Eldorado Springs residents have complained about, Padia said it will hopefully mitigate the sharp rise in visitors, which shot up from about 260,000 people in 2016 to more than 520,000 in 2018.

With park operating budgets and staffing levels remaining unchanged, enforcing the new permit requirements, should they be enacted, will take a significant interagency effort between Boulder and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Padia said.

“We’re thinking of a lot of other options,” she added. “The survey will have a menu of other strategies, but there could be other things we haven’t thought about.”

In addition to reviewing the two parking scenarios, staff at both public forums will also be looking for suggestions on how Colorado Parks and Wildlife can improve Eldorado Canyon State Park’s infrastructure.

For example, the department is considering upgrading the heavily used picnic areas to include shade shelters and additional parking. The department also is considering upgrading the restroom facilities.

Jeff Thompson, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s resource stewardship coordinator, also will be on hand to discuss the environmental resource stewardship plan the park is creating in conjunction with the visitor use management plan.

The status of the Eldorado Canyon-Walker Ranch connector trail will not be discussed, as Boulder County’s Parks and Open Space and Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks have agreed to table any discussions until the visitor use management plan is complete.

“It’s on hold from our standpoint,” said Barbra Halpin, a spokeswoman for Boulder County. “I would think it would be a lengthy process.”

If you go

What: Eldorado Canyon State Park visitor use management plan open houses

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and Sept. 17

Where: Monday at Unity of Boulder on 2855 Folsom St., Boulder; Sept. 17 at Avalon Ballroom at 6185 Arapahoe Road, Boulder

If you can’t go: Feedback can be provided at bit.ly/2kwIyYf.

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