Forest Service releases draft Hanging Lake management decision
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The U.S. Forest Service has released its draft decision to adopt and implement the planned Hanging Lake area management plan for the popular, yet overcrowded destination in Glenwood Canyon.
The decision is still subject to a formal objection process. It sets in motion a plan to limit daily, year-round capacity to 615 visitors per day and would establish a fee-based reservation and permit system using a shuttle system to and from the trailhead during the peak season from May 1 through Oct. 31.
The draft decision also implements what’s called an “adaptive management strategy,” which allows for adjustments to the management plan and “ensures that the intent of the plan continues to be realized in light of potential future changes,” according to a Forest Service statement issued today.
The management decision is based on years of analysis and public input and is in response to the overwhelming growth in visitation to the site.
“Thanks to the hundreds of public comments received and years of planning and study, we have reached this important and exiting milestone,” said Aaron Mayville, Eagle-Holy Cross District ranger. “We’ve still got some work to do, but we’re looking forward to implementing these new changes at Hanging Lake this year.”
Maryville noted that Hanging Lake has become one of Colorado’s “bucket list and must do” hikes for visitors from all over the world. With upward of 1,000 or more visitors a day, not only has it caused parking problems at the trailhead, the concern was for impacts on the natural environment and geological composition of the lake feature.
Hanging Lake is “a large and rare example of a travertine deposition lake and hanging garden plant community,” the Forest Service notes in its decision.
High use visitation at the Hanging Lake area over the last decade has resulted in damage to the area’s sensitive vegetation, historic resources and infrastructure within the area. The management plan seeks to balance the preservation of Hanging Lake’s unique natural resources, manage congestion, improve visitor experience, and support local tourism.
Following a 45-day objection period, a final decision is expected to be released and a process begun to identify a third-party shuttle service provider and a vendor to handle permits. Businesses may submit proposals through a Forest Service Outfitter and Guide special use permit process that includes transportation, a reservation system, and visitor services, according to the management plan.
“After the prospectus application window is closed, the Forest Service will evaluate the proposals and make a decision on the third-party transportation provider based on requirements identified in the prospectus. Details, such as cost, timing, and how to obtain a permit/reservation will be determined by whatever option and/or service provider is selected.
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