By Anica Padilla

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (CBS4) — Memorial Day weekend is typically a busy weekend for Rocky Mountain National Park but, this year, the park’s reservation system meant only a limited number of people could get inside. On Monday, a small group gathered outside park headquarters to protests the reservation system.

(credit: CBS)

The protesters say the reservation system discriminates against those who are on a fixed employment schedule and unable to access the park at the set times.

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We reached out to the park — they say that the restrictions are necessary due to COVID concerns, staffing challenges, and residual wildfire impacts.

“The National Park Service mission directs us to preserve and protect park resources, and provide opportunities for outstanding visitor experiences for this and future generations,” park officials stated. “We must address visitor and resource impacts; we cannot ignore the impacts or pretend they don’t exist.”

Park officials say they are hoping the public will take time to become informed and get engaged to help develop management strategies for day-use visitors.

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“Rapid growth in day use visitation and changing use patterns in the park have degraded natural and cultural resources, diminished quality of the visitor experience, increased visitor and staff safety concerns, and created a heavy strain on the park’s facilities and ability to perform daily operations,” officials stated.

In 2019, RMNP was the third most visited national park in the country with 4.6 million visitors.

Reservations this year are required during different time periods for all areas of RMNP through October 11. Reservations are required from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Bear Lake Road corridor area and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the rest of the park.

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This year’s pilot reservation system is based on approximately 75-85% of the park’s total parking capacity.

Anica Padilla