HomeOutdoorsColorado Has a Parks Problem: Too Many People Are Getting Outside

Colorado Has a Parks Problem: Too Many People Are Getting Outside

by Quentin Blount
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Visitation at Colorado parks is at an all-time high, folks. It seems like more people than ever before are spending time in the great outdoors. But is that necessarily a good thing?

In the past, it’s always been relatively easy to visit one of Colorado’s beautiful state parks. However, residents nowadays are having to call in advance sometimes to make reservations. That includes Taishya Adams, the Commissioner of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department. She knew it was going to be hectic trying to get a backpacking reservation at Rocky Mountain National Park this spring. Adams told her fellow commissioners that she’s had Early March marked in her calendar for six months in advance.

Meanwhile, it’s not just Rocky Mountain National Park that is busy. Other parks in the state are as well. In fact, Adams just endorsed a new timed entry proposal for Eldorado Canyon State Park. It will allow for overflowing parking lots on weekends to back up onto lawns in the town of Eldorado Springs.

A lot of people have been carpooling to different parks to help lessen the crowd of cars. However, Adams says that the need to manage cars should not limit people from visiting.

“I would hate to see that become a barrier,” she told The Colorado Sun.

Multiple Groups Lobbying for Increased Use of State and Federal Lands

Aaron Weiss is the deputy director of the nonprofit Center for Western Priorities, an organization that advocates for expanded public lands and more funding for parks.

“You do have to be ready to say OK, first come, first served doesn’t work if you have an entrance line that’s half a mile long every day,” said Weiss. “We have to find a better solution.”

Weiss continued saying, “The threat of overuse poses in these small spots, and it is a legitimate threat, is minuscule compared to the threat posed by development.”

Similarly, Jackie Ostfeld is the director of the Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign. She doesn’t want to see people have limited access to state parks. Instead, she wants to open up more land to the public.

“Increased use of state and federal lands is a good thing, and the solution isn’t to curtail access, but rather increase it by conserving more land and removing barriers to entry from those who feel excluded or unable to access the outdoors.”

In the meantime, though, perhaps making a reservation to visit a Colorado park will become the new normal. Dan Gibbs works as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He lives in Breckenridge, which is home to one of the busiest 14,000-peaks in the state, Quandary. Officials there have been working with the U.S. Forest Service to implement a reservation system for lots at Quandary’s base and a shuttle system for remote parking areas.

“In these high-usage areas, I think that’s going to be the future, whether it’s on state lands or federal lands,” Gibbs explained.

In the end, Gibbs notes that while limited access is a problem, it’s a good problem to have. It means more and more people are getting outside.

“In the long run, we want people to get outdoors,” he said. “I mean, this is Colorado.”