Eldorado Canyon State Park offers a variety of trails for outdoor lovers

Eldorado Canyon State Park 

Two items on next week's Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting agenda could ultimately affect Coloradans' outdoor recreation experience.

The first item would set the annual fee for a "Keep Colorado Wild" pass at $29. The fee, which was authorized by the "Keep Colorado Wild Act" (Colorado revised statute 33-12-108), will automatically be added to every motor vehicle registration in Colorado, starting Jan. 1, 2023, and serves as an annual pass into all of Colorado's state parks. Currently, a regular annual pass is priced at $80 for a single vehicle, or $120 for a "hang tag" pass that can be moved from car to car. Other lower priced passes are available for senior citizens and lower income groups, and disabled veterans get into state parks for free.

Daily passes are $9 for most state parks, while some charge a little more. Holders of annual passes do not have to pay extra to get into parks that charge more than the $9 daily fee.

The "Keep Colorado Wild" fee is optional in that vehicle owners can opt-out. Whether or not owners elect to get the pass does not affect the ability to register their vehicle.

Generally speaking, the idea behind the Keep Colorado Wild pass is that when offered at a lower price than existing yearly passes, most Coloradans will not opt-out, and income to CPW — which is a state enterprise that gets virtually no tax support — will increase, allowing the agency to keep up with growing demand. 

According to supporting documents, the $29 fee was determined by "...research conducted on Coloradans willingness to pay, revenue projections, and anticipated increases in demand for facilities and staffing due to projected increases in state park visitation." How the Keep Colorado Wild pass would be displayed on a vehicle has yet to be determined.

The second agenda item, which will be considered for the first time by the commission, would allow CPW to enact a two-year trial "Timed Entry Reservation System" for Eldorado Canyon State Park. The park, located between Golden and Boulder, is popular with rock climbers and hikers alike. I wrote about it in a previous column. Wedged into a very narrow canyon accessed via the tiny community of Eldorado Springs, the park has very limited parking on its only road. According to documents, visitors have been turned around at the entrance when the park has reached capacity, causing traffic tie-ups in the small town.

Boulder County has implemented a free shuttle on busy weekends from a nearby parking lot which, according to the document, has helped but not solved traffic problems. The trial timed entry period will be in effect for vehicles entering the park from July 1-Sept. 15 in 2022 and from May 15 to Sept. 15 in 2023, after which the effectiveness of the system will be evaluated.

Initially, 10 percent of reservations will be made available to purchase the day prior beginning at 3 p.m. These are expected to sell out quickly and visitors are encouraged to plan ahead when possible. Six ADA parking spaces will be available through the reservation system.

Reservations will be limited to one per person per day and a maximum of four reservations each month. Persons making the reservation must be in the vehicle and show valid identification before entry. Reservations are non-transferable and cannot be traded, sold or auctioned.

Entry to the park will be allowed without a reservation for those utilizing the shuttle.

Weekend and holiday walk-in entry will be restricted and individuals will be encouraged to access the park by shuttle. If this system sounds a bit familiar, it may be because it was developed with help from Rocky Mountain National Park staff, which has implemented a similar system.

According to CPW, the reservation system has the support of the residents of Eldorado Springs. 

Timed entry systems have become the "go-to" method for public land managers to cope with increased usage, and this is the first of Colorado's state parks to consider it. It remains to be seen if other busy state parks, such as Pueblo or Cherry Creek, will need to resort to something similar to manage traffic on the roads, trails and water.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission will meet March 9-10, and the meeting can be viewed live on the CPW YouTube channel.

Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.

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