Summit County officials still ironing out details of Quandary Peak Trailhead measures |

Summit County officials still ironing out details of Quandary Peak Trailhead measures

Some officials are concerned how public safety measures will impact the nearby McCullough Gulch Trailhead

When Summit County officials met last week to discuss some of the measures that will be implemented at the Quandary Peak Trailhead, concerns about how visitors, and especially locals, would access the McCullough Gulch Trailhead nearby were raised.

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence asked the county’s Open Space and Trails Department, Summit County Sheriff’s Office and other stakeholder groups to collaborate and brainstorm potential strategies. At Tuesday’s Summit Board of County Commissioners’ work session meeting, Lawrence said she still felt “uncomfortable” with the solutions presented.

Last week, Blue River resident Paul Semmer, who also formerly worked for the Dillon Ranger District, raised concerns that the pilot shuttle system will limit access to locals and visitors who want to use McCullough Gulch spontaneously. The trail is much easier than Quandary Peak and is located up the road from Quandary’s trailhead.

Parking at McCullough Gulch’s Trailhead is much more limited than Quandary Peak’s trailhead and has only a few spots for a small number of cars. Currently, cars park on both sides of the road, creating public safety concerns.

During the discussion last week, officials from the Dillon Ranger District and county trails department noted that a permitted parking system and shuttle operation will limit access to not only Quandary Peak but also McCullough Gulch.

During the meeting, Assistant Summit County Manager Bentley Henderson presented some solutions, which included adding a shuttle stop at the McCullough Gulch Trailhead and instituting a permitted parking system that would have two blocks. The first would start at roughly 4 a.m. and end at 11 a.m., and the second would run from around noon to 7:30 p.m. Henderson proposed that it would cost $20 to park during one of these blocks or $50 for the day.

Lawrence said she didn’t feel like these options resolved the concerns.

“I feel like we’re not talking about McCullough, which is really the point of this,” Lawrence said. “It just doesn’t seem like it addresses any of the concerns around McCullough Gulch, because if you want to hike McCullough Gulch and it’s 4 in the afternoon, it’s not really addressing that.”

With this new proposed change, residents and visitors would need to pay to access the permitted parking or take the shuttle up to either trailhead. Lawrence noted that this measure could impact the way McCullough Gulch is used in the future.

“It kind of just does away with that local’s piece, which is what we discussed last week, and I think it changes the atmosphere of how McCullough Gulch is used,” she said. “It almost, to me, commercializes it, which I’m fine with doing for Quandary, and I think that that needed to be done. I think we needed to commercialize Quandary before just because of the amount of people. But I think that McCullough Gulch piece — I don’t know that that’s quite addressing our goals of what we were trying to accomplish here based on the concerns that we heard from members of the public.”

Cindy Ebbert, trails and wilderness manager for the Dillon Ranger District, agreed with Lawrence and noted that these measures were set to be implemented in just nine days on Friday, July 30.

“The timing is quick,” Ebbert said. “I understand that you guys are under pressure. I get it, but that’s where we’re just not getting that time to really think through McCullough because it’s a huge piece. I’d say that 90% of the users are visitors, but there is that local piece with Blue River residents that want to go walk their dog at the end of the day, and now they’re going to have to go to Airport Road to take a shuttle in or pay $20 for half-day parking. So I think that’s where we’re stuck a little bit — the Forest Service is — with changing how the public uses that area.”

To mitigate some of these issues, it was proposed that a third option be available at the trailheads. In addition to the half-day and full-day parking rates, officials discussed implementing a three-hour increment block for a price less than $20. The idea is to divide the parking up into long-term time frames for Quandary and short-term time frames for McCullough Gulch.

It was also proposed that an additional Summit Stage or shuttle stop be offered in Blue River for neighboring residents.

Interstate Parking Co. of Colorado, a third-party agency that will coordinate permitted parking, will only begin permitted parking on a portion of the parking lot as these new measures are implemented. It was also noted that these measures, like the permitted parking and pilot shuttle operation, will last only through this current season, which Brian Lorch, Summit County Open Space and Trails director, said could run through the end of October.

Some of the other specific details for how this new operation will work are still being ironed out, including:

  • How carpooling and ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, will operate in the area
  • How to cater to recreationalists who want to hike the area midday
  • How cancellations will work

Once these details are hammered out, the county plans to develop a coordinated effort that will include signage and a phone number with a recorded message detailing these changes as well as other efforts to spread the word. It’ll also work with lodging companies and retailers such as REI to get information out about the new changes.

In the meantime, Lawrence noted that there was still a lot of work to be done and that these measures are all part of a pilot program that can be tweaked as the county learns what is and isn’t working. Part of those efforts are to hammer out details regarding McCullough Gulch through ongoing conversations.

“I know this is difficult and certainly not addressing all of our concerns. … I’m still uncomfortable with the McCullough Gulch piece, but hopefully I’ll come up with a brilliant 2 a.m. idea that wakes me up from my sleep because we have to work on this,” Lawrence said.

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