By Matt Kroschel
CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – One of the state’s most popular hiking areas could see a new user fee instituted due to the record setting number of people crowding the area.
Mt. Bierstadt is located in the Mount Evans Wilderness and the U.S. Forest Service says the problem is boiling over.
On any given weekday, dozens of hikers crowd the summit of the fourteener and on weekends more than 100 have been counted at the top at one time.
Matt Fletcher took his son and grandsons hiking Tuesday. He remembers hiking this trail as a kid before the crowds.
“Imagine what it’s like up here on a weekend, the lot is full and it’s only a Tuesday, it’s a traffic jam,” Fletcher told CBS4.
The Forest Service provided CBS4 with staggering statistics from the area:
– Weekdays average approximately 17 people on the Mount Bierstadt summit at one time, weekend days average of approximately 28 people on the summit at one time.
– The maximum number of visitors observed at one time on the summit of Mount Bierstadt is at least 133 visitors.
Another major issue is parking. There are only 106 parking spaces developed at the top of the pass, but the USFS reported at peak times 375 to 400 vehicles, which is three to four times more vehicles than spaces.
In response to the growing crisis, the USFS released these possible solutions:
1 – Initiate environmental analysis and scoping with goal of establishing a numerical capacity for Mt. Bierstadt Summit by zone
2- Implement limited entry permit system through Recreation.gov, to reduce peak use periods and to limit season of use
3- Work with Clear Creek County to require parking in designated areas only at the Guanella Pass Summit area
4- Utilize consistent recreation management actions throughout the Guanella Pass corridor across both Ranger Districts
Update From The U.S. Forest Service
Following the publication of CBS4’s story above, the U.S. Forest Service shared the following statement:
“The idea of fees or a permitting system is far beyond where we are in the process. We are in the early stages of exploring long-term management solutions to preserve these special places for present and future generations with elected officials, cooperators, partners, and visitors. Any proposed recreation management changes at Mount Bierstadt and the Guanella Pass summit will undergo an environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act and will include opportunities for the public to be involved in the process.”