Home » Eldorado Canyon crags may implement reservation system — The Know
Eldorado Canyon crags may implement reservation system — The Know
June 1, 2021
The draft version of a new long-range management plan for Eldorado Canyon State Park has the Colorado climbing community concerned that a reservations system may be coming to an area long renowned as an international mecca for rock climbers.
The park’s steep canyon walls have lured climbers since the 1960s, and many of America’s most famous climbers have navigated the sandstone crags that boast more than 500 routes looming over South Boulder Creek. One of its best known features, the Redgarden Wall, towers 700 feet above the valley below.
But hikers, anglers and picnickers also flock to the park, and parking in the narrow box canyon is limited to about 200 vehicles.
And, like so many other Front Range recreation destinations, visitation has exploded in recent years. Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the park attracted 529,579 visitors in 2020, nearly double the 280,000 visitors it had in 2016.
“The majority of the issue is with access and parking availability,” said park manager John Carson. “Once individuals get into the park, their recreational experience is not impacted by the number of people. Once you start moving in the park, the terrain naturally separates most parties from others. People do not feel like the trail system is crowded. They don’t feel like the hiking and climbing access routes are crowded. The only group that does feel a little crowded is the stationary users, such as picnickers. But climbers, hikers, fishermen and sightseers are usually on the move, so they don’t feel like crowding is an issue, once you get away from the parking lots and the entry of the park.”
Park officials are planning to implement strategies to manage those parking and access issues. Carson said the park is “not looking at a reservation system at this time,” but he concedes one could be considered if those other strategies aren’t successful.
Climbing groups, such as the Boulder Climbing Community and the Action Committee for Eldorado, have been consulting with park officials in the planning process, but they are concerned because of language in the 103-page management plan draft that says a reservation system will be “piloted,” meaning tested in public lands parlance, “as soon as it is feasible to do so.”
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That sounds like some sort of reservation system is coming, despite Carson’s assurances that no reservation system is being planned.
“That’s how we read that as well,” said Kate Beezley, executive director of the Boulder Climbing Community. “We’re ecstatic to hear John Carson’s take on it, but we want to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned in terms of making sure that our voice is heard and that we are a part of the process.”
The Boulder Climbing Community, Action Committee for Eldorado and the Access Fund sent a five-page letter to CPW expressing their concerns over issues they want to see addressed going forward, because the draft management plan “seems to commit ECSP to experiment with a pilot reservations system to see how well it would work.”
“We were very intentional in our letter that our priority is over a public process,” Beezley said. “There needs to be a public review process, if (a reservations policy) is implemented. Our preference is for it not to be implemented, but if it is implemented, it needs to have public review as part of the process. In the visitor use task force that I was a part of, for almost two years, we were presented with a list of options, of strategies that might be tried. There were highlighted ones that would be tried immediately. The reservation system was not highlighted as something that was going to be implemented as a first line of defense. So I, and others, were a little surprised by that language (“piloted” reservations system) as well. That’s why we emphasized it in our letter.”
CPW invited the public to offer input on the management plan draft, but the comment period ended this week.
Carson said a reservations system remains “a potential management tool that may be in place at some point in time.” A shuttle system from Boulder debuted last summer to alleviate parking problems on weekends, and it will resume service on Saturday.
“There are a lot of people that come into the park,” Carson said of the potential for a reservations system in the future. “But the climbers, I don’t believe need to feel afraid that they’re going to lose opportunities. The opportunity is always going to be there. It’s just that the time frame on which they want to take advantage of that opportunity might not be the time frame they want as a spur of the moment decision. You might have to plan ahead a little bit.”
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