Hanging Lake plan revealed Tuesday | PostIndependent.com

Hanging Lake plan revealed Tuesday

Staff Report

Last year about 137,000 visitors hiked the steep and rocky 1.2 miles up to Hanging Lake, and this year the U.S. Forest Service expects that number to be about 140,000.

The U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday will unveil its long-awaited proposed Hanging Lake Area Management Plan.

The Forest Service has grappled with increasing crowds at the lake of up to 1,200 visitors a day in the summer, and is expected to propose a fee and shuttle system that would eliminate the parking crunch at the Interstate 70 rest area 9 miles east of Glenwood Springs and hopefully reduce the risk of damage to the 1.2-mile trail and lake.

The crowding is worsened by occasional vandalism and visitors ignoring rules about parking, staying out of the water and bringing dogs on the trail.

Hanging Lake, a National Natural Landmark, is one of Colorado's top tourism destinations and has continued to see a large increase in visitation over the last decade, the Forest Service said in an advisory Friday. "Situated in the narrow, rugged and scenic Glenwood Springs Canyon, this 'bucket list' site and hike has gained so much popularity to the point of creating congestion, overcapacity and safety issues. The area has continued to experience growing visitor dissatisfaction due to crowding, disrespectful behavior and most importantly environmental and facility degradation," the advisory said.

The Forest Service convened a group in 2013 to develop better management tactics. Partners included the Colorado Department of Transportation, Federal Highways, Colorado State Patrol, Garfield County, Garfield County Search and Rescue, City of Glenwood Springs, Glenwood Springs Tourism Promotion Board and Chamber of Commerce, Excel Energy, National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Release of the proposed management plan will initiate a 30-day public scoping period where the Forest Service will solicit public and stakeholder feedback on the proposed plan. Comments will help refine the proposed plan and the environmental analysis moving forward.

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