U.S. Forest Service delays for one year Hanging Lake plan | AspenTimes.com

U.S. Forest Service delays for one year Hanging Lake plan

John Stroud and Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Alan Brekke from Minnesota takes a photo Tuesday morning of the cyrstal clear water at Hanging Lake.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Implementation of a new fee-based permit system and summertime shuttle service for access to the popular Hanging Lake area in Glenwood Canyon has been put off for a year, U.S. Forest Service officials announced Monday.

The plan, designed to limit daily visitors to 615 per day and help preserve the lake’s fragile ecosystem, is still awaiting a formal record of decision from the Forest Service.

Several other details contained in the plan, including the establishment of a reservation-based fee system and a shuttle service to run from May 1 through Oct. 31, have yet to be worked out, according to Aaron Mayville, Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger.

A preliminary proposal came out in August of last year outlining the permit-only system along with the shuttle service during the busier months. Late last year, the plan was deemed to be in the best interests of preserving the resource, which has been experiencing upward of 1,000 or more visitors a day.

The management decision was based on multiple years of analysis and public input, and is in response to the overwhelming growth in visitation to the site.

However, for this summer, the Forest Service will continue to manage the parking lot and trail with dedicated crews who will control the number of cars that are allowed to park, as well as provide outreach to visitors, Mayville said.

“We’ve come a long way in getting this management plan finalized,” he said. “Great progress has been made, but there is still a lot of work to be done before we can fully implement the plan and the shuttle system on time in 2019.”

The Forest Service is still working through the National Environmental Policy Act process for the Hanging Lake Management Plan. That includes issuing a final decision on the management plan that was released last summer, and lining up a third-party transportation provider to run the shuttle and reservation system.

Both actions are expected to take place sometime this spring, but not in time to implement the new management procedures for this season.

“We are expecting to sign the final decision saying that this plan will be implemented here shortly, probably within the next few weeks to a month,” Mayville said. “In advance of that we wanted people to understand that … is just one step in the process.

“We still need to go out to the public … for proposals on how to manage that shuttle, and who is going to do it, what the price is going to be, pickup location, reservation system, etc., and recognizing that … is going to take a little bit of time,” he said.

“Hanging Lake is a popular and treasured place to visit, and we ask that everyone who visits this year to be patient, courteous and respectful of each other and the lake as we head into another busy season in Glenwood Canyon,” Mayville added.

In the meantime, for those wishing to visit Hanging Lake in the coming months, the Forest Service offers the following tips:

• Visit Hanging Lake in the early morning or late afternoon for less crowds and a better chance of getting a parking spot.

• If possible, visit Hanging Lake mid-week when the parking lot is less congested.

• On weekends and during high-visitation times the parking lot is consistently full; be prepared to wait in line or be turned around at the gate by Forest Service staff due to a full parking lot.

Parking is prohibited on Interstate 70, including the on and off ramps, and the State Patrol will actively ticket and tow vehicles that are causing a safety hazard.

The Forest Service also reminds users that dogs are strictly prohibited on the trail and at Hanging Lake, and that swimming, fishing and standing on the log that stretches across part of the lake also are prohibited.

Hikers should also stay on the trail and not cut the switchbacks, which leads to trail erosion and vegetation damage.

The Hanging Lake parking lot will be closed for routine maintenance May 16 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. And, the area will be closed again Sept. 17 to 22 for dam and trail work, and will reopen Sept. 23.

For more information about Hanging Lake, download the White River National Forest app in the App Store, or access it on web-enabled devices at whiteriver.oncell.com.

Visit the WRNF website (http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver) or call the Holy Cross District Office at 970-827-5715 for additional information.