Since December 22 Rocky Mountain National Park has greatly limited access due to the government shutdown and inclement weather. Technically, RMNP has remained fully open with limited service and maintenance. What has this meant? Well, to the local and tourist alike, it means that roads were barricaded due to not being plowed. This was for the safety of visitors, which is understandable. While the roads were ‘closed’ they were still open to foot and bike traffic, and all trails remained officially open if you could get to them. It also meant that visitor centers were closed, entrance stations were unmanned, and bathroom and trash services were non-operational.
A big step has now been taken in light of the current shutdown and Rocky Mountain National Park has restored access and resumed basic visitor services. With vague government verbiage, we were a bit unclear as to what this meant until Kyle Patterson, Management Specialist and Public Affairs Officer for RMNP, sent out the following email:
“Rocky Mountain National Park Restores Accessibility And Resumes Basic Visitor Services
Park restores access to recently closed areas after cleanup/maintenance operations
Rocky Mountain National Park announced today that areas that have been closed due to the inability to plow and maintain roads, will once again be accessible to visitors. On Saturday, January 12, a limited number of park staff began snowplowing US 36 past the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and US 34 past the Fall River Entrance. This morning, US Highways 36 and 34 were reopened to Deer Ridge Junction. Trail Ridge Road beyond Deer Ridge Junction to Many Parks Curve has also reopened. US Highway 34 on the west side is now open to the Colorado River Trailhead. Snowplows are working today on Bear Lake Road and it is anticipated that it will reopen sometime tomorrow.
Also this past Saturday, a limited number of custodians began cleaning toilet facilities and trash receptacles. Some basic visitor services, including entrance stations and two out of five loops at the Moraine Park Campground, will also reopen later this week. Entrance stations will be open to provide safety and basic information to visitors, but entrance fees will not be collected.
These basic services are being funded with revenue generated by recreation fees. National Park Service officials have determined that by using Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement funds to bring back limited park maintenance staff to plow roads, clean restrooms, and remove trash, the park can restore accessibility to the park for visitors.
Outdoor areas of the park remain accessible. Most facilities, including Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on the east side and Kawuneeche Visitor Center on the west side will remain closed. “We greatly appreciate Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s efforts to staff the Fall River Visitor Center during the lapse in appropriations,” said park superintendent Darla Sidles. Fall River Visitor Center is located outside of the park near the Fall River Entrance.
While basic visitor services have been restored, other services will be limited or unavailable during the lapse in appropriations, including visitor centers, ranger talks and programs. Visitors are reminded that all rules and regulations apply. Visitors should visit the park website at nps.gov/romo while planning their visit to get the latest information on accessibility and available services.”
What wonderful news for all of us who hold RMNP so near and dear to our hearts! This morning, I got up and took a drive through the Fall River Entrance, just minutes from Castle Mountain Lodge and McGregor Mountain Lodge, and experienced a beautifully peaceful morning in one of my favorite places on earth! It was so good to see visitors enjoying the wildlife, the grand vistas, and to see cars parked at the trail heads.
Now that the park is easily accessible once again, but given that services will be limited and what services are available will be spread thin, we need to be more mindful of how we behave and treat this special corner of the Rockies. For the most part, visitors treated RMNP very well over the past three weeks. Clean up efforts over the weekend found the park to be spotless and pristine, which made us all breathe a sigh of relief. Now that more folks can get into the deeper nooks and crannies with relative ease, we need to step it up once again.
A couple of park rules to be especially mindful of:
1. Do not approach wildlife. Take your pics from a distance and give the wild creatures plenty of space.
2. Dogs/Pets are only allowed on roads and in parking areas. Never on any trails for any reason.
And to cover most every other potential issue or problem, freshen up on the Leave No Trace principles. To read more about putting these very important principles into actions, visit their website at www.LNT.org.
It’s time to hit the trails and get back to exploring this wild and untamed landscape we hold so dear.
Michael and the Castle and McGregor Crew.