Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park will discontinue its timed-entry reservation system implemented last year for visitors during the pandemic.
When the park reopened to visitors in June, officials implemented the system to promote social distancing and keep vehicle entries capped at 60%. The timed-entry system required visitors to register in advance online for a permit to enter the park during an allocated time slot.
Officials have said that system will not continue into 2021.
"At this time, we do not plan to implement the same type of timed-entry permit system as was used in 2020, but will continue restrictions when necessary and may implement other pilot visitor management techniques if congestion and crowding warrants," Kyle Patterson, the park's public affairs officer, told The Denver Post. "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."
Rock Mountain National Park has been struggling with overcrowding for years. Since 2012, annual park visitation records have been broken six times.
More than 4.67 million people visited the park in 2019, a 58% increase from 2010 (when 2.95 million people visited), The Denver Post reported. Because of COVID restrictions in 2020, visitation was down about 31% from the year before.
Park officials have implemented different vehicle restriction techniques on and off since 2016 at sections of the park including Bear Lake Road, the Wild Basin Area and the Alpine Visitor Center to manage congestion. In 2019, those areas saw restrictions on most days in July and August, in addition to June and September weekends. Those sections of the park will continue to see intermittent vehicle restrictions.
But officials have repeatedly stated they will not establish a permanent timed reservation system without first seeking public opinion.
Visitors will be required to wear masks following President Joe Biden's recent executive order.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.
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