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Rocky Mountain National Park nixes timed reservation system

DENVER — Rocky Mountain National Park is discontinuing a timed-entry reservation system that was put in place to promote social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The reservation system last year limited vehicle entries to 60% of the park’s maximum parking lot capacity, The Denver Post reported. This year, park officials say they will continue restrictions when necessary and could introduce other pilot programs to manage congestion and crowding.

“We will learn from the temporary timed-entry permit system last year and incorporate lessons learned as we move forward with our visitor use management planning efforts,” said park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson.

Rocky Mountain National Park has imposed intermittent vehicle restrictions since 2016 on Bear Lake Road, in the Wild Basin Area and at the Alpine Visitor Center. Those restrictions will continue.

Park officials have repeatedly said they will not establish a permanent reservation system without getting public opinion first, but they have have been wrestling with crowding for years. The park has broken annual visitation records six times since 2012. Visitation in 2019 was 4.67 million, a 58% increase since 2010 when it was 2.95 million.

Because of the COVID-19 restrictions and wildfires, park visitation in 2020 was down nearly 31% from 2019 through November, the most recent figures available.