Hanging Lake management plan analysis formally released
The U.S. Forest Service has released its draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Hanging Lake area management plan, kicking off a final 30-day public comment period before the plan is to be implemented next May, the agency announced today.
The EA spells out the environmental effects should the proposed management plan be put into place. The plan calls for a permit-only, 615-visitor-per-day cap year round, as detailed in the preliminary proposal put forth in August. It also establishes a fee-based, reservation-system shuttle service to be implemented during the peak time of year from May through October.
Forest officials, working with the city of Glenwood Springs, the Colorado Department of Transportation and others, have bee studying ways to better manage Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon in the face of increasing crowds at the popular area.
The management plan seeks to protect the natural resources and fragile ecosystem of the lake and the trail that provides access to the area from the effects of high use.
“In 2017, we saw 184,000 visitors at Hanging Lake, which is a 23 percent increase in only one year,” Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville said in a news release announcing the draft plan. “This data further underscores the importance of the long-term management solution, and I’m happy we’re making good progress with this Environmental Assessment.”
The EA concludes that the plan would benefit the fragile ecology of the area by limiting soil compaction, improving soil health, plant viability, stream health and wildlife habit.
Increased visitation this year has been attributed to the rising popularity of the site. A warm spring followed by an unseasonably warm and dry fall allowed for more shoulder-season trail use than in previous years.
Additionally, the proposal finds that visitor experience and safety would improve due to reduced crowding and congestion, Mayville explained.
“Implementation of the proposed plan would also allow for greater capacity to provide interpretive and educational programming, further enhancing visitor experiences,” the release states.
Initial public feedback gathered in August and September found that the majority of people are supportive of the proposed management plan, and are interested in providing suggestions for the implementation of the transportation service and the reservation system.
Specific implementation details, such as cost and how to obtain a permit and make a reservation, are to be determined once a service provider selected, as recommended in the plan.
In addition to the 615-person cap, the plan calls for a third-party transportation provider to be used from May through October. Parking at the trailhead will be prohibited during those months, except by special permit.
During the off-peak season from November through April the area would still be managed to its daily capacity through a fee-based reservation or permit system. However, visitors would be allowed to access the site using their own vehicles.
“An adaptive management strategy is employed in the proposed action that relies on monitoring to ensure that the plan’s objectives are obtained and the intent of the plan continues to be effective in the face of future changes,” according to the release.
Written comments on the proposal will be accepted for 30 calendar days following publication of the official notice in the Vail Daily. Comments can be submitted via mail, fax, electronically, or in person during regular business hours to Aaron Mayville or Paula Peterson, P.O. Box 190, Minturn, CO 81645, or electronically at https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=50479.