No reservation system at Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, officials say
System could come back in the future to help cut down on congestion
While conceding the reservation system instituted last year at Rocky Mountain National Park will be evaluated as a potential long-term solution to managing the park’s surging visitor numbers over the past decade, park officials say they are not planning to employ it this year.
Last year, the timed-entry reservation system was triggered by the pandemic, and was intended to promote social distancing by limiting vehicle entries to 60% of the park’s maximum parking lot capacity. Park officials have been trying to manage congestion and crowding since 2016 by imposing intermittent vehicle restrictions, however, and those measures will continue.
“At this time, we do not plan to implement the same type of timed-entry permit system as was used in 2020, but will continue restrictions when necessary and may implement other pilot visitor management techniques if congestion and crowding warrants,” said Kyle Patterson, the park’s public affairs officer. “We will learn from the temporary timed-entry permit system last year and incorporate lessons learned as we move forward with our visitor use management planning efforts.”
Park officials have repeatedly said they will not institute a permanent reservation system without soliciting public opinion first, but they have have been wrestling with congestion and crowding for years. Records show the park broke annual visitation records six times since 2012. Because of the COVID restrictions and wildfires, park visitation in 2020 was down nearly 31% from 2019 through November, the most recent figures available.
Visitation in 2019 was 4.67 million, a 58% increase since 2010 (2.95 million).
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