FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Due to a big increase in visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) was set to roll out a reservation system for the Mount Evans Scenic Byway and Brainard Lake.
The final details about the project have yet to be finalized, but the USFS said the timed-entry passes for these popular recreation areas are expected to be available for purchase in mid-May, with Mt. Evans slated to open on June 4 and the Brainard Lake welcome station opening on June 11.
There was a 200% increase in outdoor recreation across Colorado’s northern Front Range in 2020, according to a news release, with a “large number of first-time visitors seeking an escape from the constraints of social distancing.”
What happened next were long lines at entrance stations, overflowing trailheads and some bad parking jobs, a story that might be familiar to anyone who’s visited other popular areas like Rocky Mountain National Park or Colorado’s 14ers in recent years.
Last year in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, the USFS said people inadvertently created “thousands of new campsites” when they stayed in undeveloped areas for the night, building “hundreds of new campfire rings” and leaving human waste and trash in the municipal water supply.
This caused another change for 2021.
The USFS said it is working with local county officials to target some areas as “day-use-only,” in hopes of quelling camping.
The agency said it hopes to release more information in the coming weeks about what the reservation system and capacity restrictions will look like. The passes will be available on Recreation.gov.
In 2020, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway was closed to vehicle traffic due to social distancing concerns, though it was open to cyclists and very motivated pedestrians.
Due to increased demand during that same summer, Brainard Lake allowed only 80% of its parking spaces to be filled.
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