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A cyclist rides along the dam above Boulder Reservoir on Wednesday. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
A cyclist rides along the dam above Boulder Reservoir on Wednesday. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Peter Richards’ name.

New fees are in place to get into the Boulder Reservoir in the weeks before and after its busiest season.

While the busiest season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Boulder Parks and Recreation said the reservoir sees a lot of traffic in the weeks before Memorial Day and again in the weeks after Labor Day, a time when people can enter the park and access services without paying to do so.

A cyclist rolls through the front entrance of Boulder Reservoir on Wednesday. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

The flank season fee, as it’s being called by Parks and Recreation, is $5 for an individual and $10 for a carload. It’s a daily entry fee in effect until May 27 and again from Sept. 7 to Oct. 17.

During peak season, the entry cost is $9 for Boulder residents and $11 for other adults with reduced rates for children and seniors. There also is a new peak season twilight fee, a reduced cost of $5 per person and $10 per carload, since there are reduced services after 6 p.m.

Fees are charged for anyone entering the reservoir, including cyclists, runners and walkers.

When asked whether the new fees might dissuade people from biking or walking in — the city pushes for multimodal transportation as part of its climate and transportation goals — Parks and Recreation spokesperson Jonathan Thornton said the city is piloting something it calls the “Stay, Play, Pay” structure.

Those staying and recreating at the South Shore or the newly redeveloped Visitor Services Center must pay. However, those passing through on bike or foot can do so without paying the flank season fee.

“Because of the volume of visitation during the peak season, we have no ability to monitor who is staying and playing or who is passing through,” Thornton said. “So everyone pays.”

“We recognize that running or biking the loop around the Reservoir is a popular route for our community members and want to promote that form of physical activity,” he added. “If this pilot fee structure goes well and is not abused by folks avoiding the fee and then benefiting from the services on the South Shore, it can inform future flank season operations.”

The decision to establish flank season fees was proposed by the city and approved in October 2020 by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. According to the PRAB meeting packet, about 300,000 people visit the South Shore annually. Most of the visitors are there during peak season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, a time when fees historically have been charged.

Still, some people remain unconvinced about the plan. University Hill resident Peter Richards said he sometimes bikes to the reservoir and finds it to be a pleasant ride. But he doesn’t think it makes sense to charge across-the-board fees.

“You can’t charge a bike the same as a car,” Richards said.

One of the challenges, Thornton said, is the reservoir functions as both a park and a recreational amenity. While parks are generally funded by tax dollars, the Boulder Reservoir is solely funded by user fees as a recreational amenity would be. With revenue-generating events canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, the reservoir generated 70% of the revenue it expected in 2020, according to the October PRAB meeting packet.

Richards echoed some of the sentiments.

“The reservoir has financially been a nightmare,” he said. “It just doesn’t work.”