ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO – Amid an influx of nature enthusiasts, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) has opened the floor for public commentary on its proposed long-range visitor access plan. This initiative emerges in response to a significant upsurge in park visitation, prompting environmental and safety concerns.
Between 2012 and 2019, RMNP observed a staggering 44 percent hike in footfall, peaking at 4.67 million visits in 2019. Despite a timed entry system’s implementation, visitation rates have continued to soar, leading to natural and cultural resource degradation, diminished visitor experiences, and operational challenges.
The Environmental Assessment (EA) put forth by the park outlines a dual timed entry reservation system for the Bear Lake Road Corridor and the park’s other areas. This system echoes strategies tested from 2021 to 2023, refined by pilots and public feedback.
The Debate: Regulations vs. Access
The park’s proposal, aimed at safeguarding the park’s pristine environment, has been met with mixed reactions. Proponents argue that without these measures, the surge in visitation will continue to erode the park’s natural state and compromise visitor safety. Conversely, opponents cite concerns over restricted access, fearing that stringent regulations could impede the public’s ability to enjoy the park’s beauty freely.
RMNP staff, looking to strike a balance between preservation and accessibility, are soliciting insights from visitors, locals, and businesses to shape a strategy that caters to both the park’s integrity and the people’s will.
Public Participation and Leave No Trace
To voice opinions, the public can attend open houses in Grand Lake and Estes Park or join a virtual meeting scheduled for November 8. Detailed information and registration for the virtual meeting can be found here. For those unable to attend, a recorded session will be available on the park’s planning link.
In line with Leave No Trace principles, park visitors are encouraged to minimize their impact on the environment, respecting wildlife and preserving the park’s natural beauty for future generations.
Comments on the EA can be submitted via the PEPC website from October 30 through December 14, 2023, or mailed to the Superintendent of RMNP. The park underlines the importance of public participation, hoping to unveil operational plans for summer 2024 that reflect a consensus-driven approach to park management.
As RMNP navigates the complexities of increasing visitation, the intertwining paths of ecological integrity and human enjoyment remain at the forefront of its long-range planning efforts.