ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (AP) – Officials at Rocky Mountain National Park are looking at ways to address overcrowding on peak days when visitors and vehicles put a burden on trails, roads and wildlife.
The park had a record 3.4 million visitors last year, and officials have begun talking about ways to protect park resources.
Too many people in the park can affect the trails, roads and wildlife, but they also can hinder the natural experience park users are seeking with crowds and noise, said Rick Fedorchak, chief of interpretation and education.
“If you’re at Bear Lake on a summer day, you’re not going to hear those natural sounds until you’re a quarter mile up the road,” he said.
Weekends in the summer have long been busy in the park, but visitation has spread out through all seasons with snowshoeing and sledding in the winter, fall colors and elk rutting, spring flowers and, of course, beautiful summer days.
On Sept. 27, officials counted a record 13,295 vehicles, the Loveland Reporter-Herald reported.
“The weather was beautiful,” said Kyle Patterson, park spokeswoman. “The colors were amazing. The elk were rutting,” with their bugle calls that attract wildlife lovers from all over the country.
Park officials have already taken some steps to reduce crowding.
Shuttles run from locations in the nearby town of Estes Park to prime stops in Rocky Mountain National Park to cut down on vehicles and emissions in the park.
The buses also create challenges with large groups of people dropped off in a single location at the same time, Fedorchak said.
Park rangers are urging people to visit on weekdays if they can, and to hike and climb in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the prime time from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are also signs that warn people when areas are full.
Patterson said officials do not anticipate implementing a one-in, one-out rule.
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