In Brief: When to head for Front Range; bears were everywhere; Search & Rescue needed for Moffat motorists
Best day, times to drive home to Front Range
Presidents’ Day often draws large crowds in the High Country as it consistently ranks within the top three busiest weekends of the winter season, behind New Year’s Eve and Martin Luther King weekends, according to historical data provided by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
If headed home for the Front Range 2022 eastbound traffic data shows that Sunday had the heaviest traffic, followed by Monday, Saturday, and Friday. In 2022, 26,433 people drove Sunday, 25,907 drove Monday, 22,537 drove Saturday, and 20,941 drove Friday, according to a comparison of 2022 CDOT data pulled a week before and the week of Presidents’ Day. Data for this brief was pulled from a traffic counter at the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels.
In general, the best time to travel on I-70 is before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m., but a review of traffic counts from last year’s holiday show that this window of high traffic lengthens significantly on Friday for westbound traffic.
Traffic counts more than doubled between 6-7 a.m. on the Friday before the holiday last year, rising from 929 cars per hour to more than 2,000. The rate of travel remained around or above 2,000 until 5 p.m. and didn’t drop below 1,000 until 9 p.m.
For comparison, westbound travel counts dropped below 1,000 vehicles per hour at 6 p.m. on the Friday before Christmas this year and never exceeded 2,000.
Travelers heading west from the Front Range could expect around 23% more traffic Friday, according to a comparison of 2022 CDOT data pulled a week before and the week of Presidents’ Day. Data for this story was pulled from a traffic counter at the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels.
For those traveling westbound, Friday typically sees the most traffic, followed by Saturday, Sunday, and then Monday. In 2022, 31,816 cars were counted Friday, 25,420 were counted Saturday, 22,577 were counted Sunday, and 19,342 were counted Monday, according to westbound data at the tunnel.
Bear sightings, conflicts rose across West Slope
Reports of bear sightings and conflicts with humans were up 16% in Colorado last year to nearly 4,300, but they were down slightly when compared to 2019 and 2020, according to an annual report issued Wednesday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
On the Front Range east of the Continental Divide, reports decreased in 2022, but they grew in the northwest region of the state due to drought and a shortage of natural food sources there.
Ample moisture east of the Continental Divide created favorable conditions for the growth of bears’ natural food sources, including wild berries and nuts, reducing the need for bears to seek food in urban areas. Compared to the previous two years, Colorado’s southeast region saw an 18% decrease in bear conflicts while conflicts in the northeast region decreased 6%.
West of the divide, a late freeze led to “food failure,” the CPW report says, resulting in nearly “non-existent” sources of berries and acorns. The northwest region, which experienced extreme drought, saw a 9% increase in conflicts while the southwest region saw a 3% decrease.
CPW urges the public to learn how to bear-proof their homes.
Moffat Search and Rescue needed for stranded motorists
Blizzard conditions west of Craig on Wednesday, Feb. 15, left more than a dozen motorists stranded and prompted a rescue effort by Moffat County Search and Rescue.
The harsh weather conditions Wednesday caused overnight closures of U.S. Highway 40 west of Craig. The U.S. 40 closure stretched to the Utah state line, and it included Colorado Highway 318 from Maybell to the Utah state line.
Both highways reopened by Friday, Feb. 17, but the poor weather conditions and closures left multiple motorists stranded Wednesday night on Colorado 318 outside of Maybell.
Using a snowcat and more, Moffat County Search and Rescue deployed on Wednesday to reach those who were stranded and collected approximately 19 people and one dog. The stranded motorists were first taken to Maybell, where temporary services were provided at the Maybell Community Center.
According to Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, all of the stranded motorists were then transported to Craig, where overnight lodging and meals were arranged in a coordinated effort with several local entities.
Eagle looking to upgrade trails
Alongside the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition and the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, Eagle’s Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee is gearing up to propose major improvements to Eagle Trails within the Bureau of Land Management Hardscrabble Special Recreation Management Area.
Eagle Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee chair Ernest Saeger said after snow melts and seasonal closures lift this spring, environmental surveys will be conducted on trails within the area to determine possible impacts of changes to the trails that were proposed to the Bureau of Land Management.
Also, Saeger said Eagle Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee, the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition and the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance are seeking community feedback on proposed changes to Hardscrabble trails.
“We hope, in a perfect world, if there’s no significant objections and environmental teams don’t find anything too detrimental to any of these projects, that the idea is for this to be approved for changes or denied by the end of July,” Saeger said.
Project managers sought as much feedback as possible from citizens to stakeholders to trail users to wildlife advocates. With the feedback and through the town of Eagle Open Space and Trail Master Plan, the proposal submitted to the Bureau of Land Management pending environmental review was able to come to fruition.
Gambling, tourist boon in Nevada
The year 2022 was good for gambling and tourism in Nevada, where winnings at casinos statewide set calendar year records and Las Vegas visitor tallies nearly reached levels before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Las Vegas enjoyed a robust recovery trajectory across core tourism indicators in 2022,” the regional Convention and Visitors Authority said in a report summarizing December and year-end visitor volume figures on Tuesday.
“The year closed out with 38.8 million annual visitors,” the report said, up more than 20% from 2021 and down just under 9% from 42.5 million in 2019.