Survey: 51% ‘very unlikely’ to use parking reservation system at Quandary and McCullough trailheads |

Survey: 51% ‘very unlikely’ to use parking reservation system at Quandary and McCullough trailheads

Summit County and its partners debriefed about the measures implemented last year and what tweaks are needed for this year

Quandary Peak Trailhead is pictured Friday, Feb. 4. Summit County government — along with the town of Breckenridge, the U.S. Forest Service and the Summit County Sheriff's Office — is planning to make some tweaks to the pilot program it launched last year.
Joel Wexler/For the Summit Daily News

Last summer, Summit County government, the U.S. Forest Service, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the town of Breckenridge rushed to implement a couple of measures at the McCullough Gulch and Quandary Peak trailheads in an effort to curb public safety and parking issues.

The program ran from July 30 to Oct. 31, and during that time, hikers could choose to use a parking reservation system at the trailheads or a new shuttle system that picked them up at the Airport Road parking lot near Breckenridge. The team also added additional enforcement measures and more parking spots to accommodate the high demand for both trails, especially the popular Quandary Peak, a 6-mile round trip trail that tops out at 14,247 feet.

The new measures brought conflicting views from residents and visitors, so in preparation for another summer season, Summit County and its partners met to discuss the feedback received and what tweaks might need to be made for this upcoming season.

Presenting to the Summit Board of County Commissioners during its work session Tuesday, Feb. 1, were a few members from the county’s open space and trails department, including director Katherine King and resource specialists Allison Mitchell and Christine Zenel. Most of the presentation examined the success of the program’s two biggest components: the shuttle system and the parking reservation system.

Last year, the shuttle system was funded by the county and free of charge to riders. According to the team’s presentation, the total expense for the shuttle system — which operated three shuttles seven days a week for three months — was $267,600. Expenses for the reserved parking system were about $91,852, and it totaled about $96,243 in revenue.

During the three months, more than 12,000 passengers rode the shuttle to Quandary Peak and over 9,000 rode it to McCullough Gulch. For Quandary, ridership peaked from 6:30-7 a.m. and again from 2-3 p.m. For McCullough Gulch, ridership peaked at 1 p.m., and Saturdays were the most popular day for shuttle use, followed by Sundays, Fridays and Mondays.

Community leaders were in agreement that the shuttle system was successful, especially considering that 58% of riders who answered a survey at the trailhead said they were “very likely” to use the service again.

Last year, Summit County launched a pilot program complete with a shuttle system and parking reservation system at the McCullough Gulch and Quandary Peak trailheads. The team recently reviewed the data collected during the program to see how users liked the new measures.
Jenna deJong/Summit Daily News

The parking reservation system showed different results.

About 3,364 reservations were made during the pilot program. The reservation system offered two half-day time slots for $20. One was from 4-11:30 a.m. and the other was from noon to 7:30 p.m. A full-day shift was available for $50. McCullough Gulch also had three-hour parking spots available for $5.

According to those who took the survey, 51% of respondents said they were “highly unlikely” to use the parking reservation system again. Mitchell said the least popular slot was the afternoon shift, which accounted for only 9% of reservations made.

The presentation also reported that visitation decreased about 46% at Quandary Peak and 71% at McCullough Gulch compared with 2020 numbers. This was one point that worried Adam Bianchi, Dillon district ranger for the Forest Service.

“I think that’s probably our biggest points that we’d like to continue to address is how to access McCullough Gulch,” Bianchi said. “I think Quandary is getting there.”

King noted that the vast majority of survey respondents were visitors and very few Summit County residents participated, which was a point of contention for Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard.

“What concerns me, as we think about continuing to invest in this program, is that feedback from the survey is only 6% … from Summit County residents, so how are we supposed to balance that conversation,” Blanchard asked.

In the presentation, recommendations for access and equity, improvements to the shuttle system, installing better infrastructure and expanding outreach and education were proposed to the board. Such items included measures like improving access to McCullough Gulch, maintaining the free cost of the shuttle, reducing the cost of the parking reservations and adjusting time frames, among others.

None of these recommendations had any financial costs presented, so the commissioners asked for that information in the next month or so in order to make informed decisions.

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she wanted to see a few different scenarios for the shuttle that included full support from the county, a partial subsidy and an option to have riders fund the program entirely.

Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue also voiced her support for the financial breakdown of some of the recommendations in addition to how the shuttle could support other busy trailheads in the county.

Bianchi said he wanted to caution leaders about rushing into adding more trailheads to the program, but Summit County Manager Scott Vargo noted this was a good idea to think about as the county continues to adjust its system.

“I think we were all hopeful that we were going to be able to walk away from the Quandary conversation and move immediately to a much broader program for two reasons,” Vargo said. “One, to address some of these other trailheads, but No. 2, to make it a more financially viable shuttle system for the operator, as well.”

Community leaders are planning to reconvene once financial estimates are attached to some of the recommendations proposed.

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