[Courtesy of The Denver Channel]

Cities using free shuttles to help overwhelmed Colorado parks

BOULDER, Colo. – Growth around Colorado is becoming more visible than ever. The challenge of keeping up with that rapid growth has spilled outside of our cities and off our roads, and is now impacting our state’s open space and mountain parks.

Boulder’s Chautauqua Park welcomes more than 300,000 visitors every year. Those who are familiar with the park’s stunning views and abundant trails are also familiar with the difficulty in finding parking.

“Got here about 7:30 a.m., and I found one little tiny spot and squeezed my car in,” Nic Zangre said.

Limited parking is just one reason Boulder introduced the free Park-to-Park shuttle ride in 2017.

Over a 26-day pilot period, an average of 900 people used the service each day.

Meghan Wilson with the City of Boulder said there was a 20 percent drop in cars parked around the Chautauqua Park neighborhood in that same time period, compared to 2016 numbers.

“There’s limited parking and too much demand,” Zangre said.

The shuttles are back this year and will be running weekends and holidays from Saturday through Labor Day.

If you choose the pay-to-park option, you’ll have to pay a small fee for that convenience. Visitors will find pay stations, requiring $2.50 fee per hour. Homeowners get a permit to park.

The second part of the program involves a free shuttle to take visitors from free lots in Boulder into the park. The shuttles run every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“Part of it is the cost, but part of it is also just…-once summer hits, it’s just so busy,” shuttle rider Bryan Pierce told Denver7.

Denver7 learned congestion isn’t specific to Chautauqua Park either.

Further south, Garden of the Gods is a destination for more than two million people a year.

Colorado Springs announced it’s using shuttles to do much of the same after a transportation study focused on ways the city could alleviate congestion, enhance access and reduce emissions.

Boulder considers its Park-to-Park pilot year a success, and Pierce agreed, “Incredible convenience. There’s so much more parking down by the high school… you just wait a few moments and the bus shows up.”

He said, otherwise, “You drive in circles for a while.”

“This program started because of a lot of congestion around Chautauqua, particularly during summer and on weekends,” explained Cty of Boulder Communications Manager Meghan Wilson. “It really is a way to ease congestion, limit impacts to neighborhoods and Chautauqua, and still allow people access to the park.”

Dogs and climbing gear are allowed inside the shuttles.

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