Friday, March 23, 2018

Public Input Requested on the Future of Cascade Cottages In Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is considering options for the future use of the 42-acre Cascade Cottages property acquired in March of 2017. For many decades Kansas school-teachers L.V. and Hazel Davis operated a privately-owned lodging business that was open seasonally from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Honoring the wishes of the family patriarch, the family approached park staff in 2009, offering to sell the property to the park. With assistance from the Trust for Public Land, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, and many donors, including the Estes Valley Land Trust, Larimer County, and the Town of Estes Park, the park was able to acquire the property. Park staff are now in the process of determining how the property should be used and/or preserved.

The Cascade Cottages property is bordered on the south by Fall River, and is named for a series of cascades on the river. The property is bisected by Fall River Road (U.S. Highway 34), and is located approximately 1 mile inside the Fall River Entrance to RMNP. The property office, 12 rustic cabins, and associated infrastructure are located on the south side of Fall River Road and lie very lightly on the land. The cabins are built on stone or concrete piers, and water lines run above ground. There is no well or permanent water system. Water was hauled to the site and stored in above ground tanks, and propane was delivered to the site. The only externally provided utilities are power and telephone. The property to the north of Fall River Road is undeveloped.

Preliminary Options
While no decision has been made on the future use of the Cascade Cottages Property, some preliminary options have been developed to initiate discussion. These preliminary options are:

Youth Conservation Corps Seasonal Housing
The park’s friends group, The Rocky Mountain Conservancy, funds a youth conservation corps every summer. The corps perform projects within the park such as trail reconstruction. Some of the existing cottages could be renovated and site improvements completed to provide housing that would only be occupied by the corps during the summer months.

Youth and Volunteer Outdoor Education
Some of the cabins could be renovated and minor site improvements completed to provide a rustic lodging and outdoor education facility for youth or park volunteers that have limited experience with the outdoors. Not as outdoorsy as camping, the rustic cabins could provide an outdoors experience without all the comforts of home.

Mothball the Structures
RMNP would terminate all outside services (power and phone), and would secure each building from entry using plywood coverings over windows and doors. While left unused, the buildings would not receive routine maintenance.

Remove the Structures and Restore the Site
The structures and infrastructure would be removed and recycled to the extent feasible. The ground would be scarified to break up compacted soil, and the area replanted with native grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees. The goal would be to place all disturbed areas on a trajectory where they would be restored to natural conditions in a matter of a few decades.

Other Options
If you have comments on the options above or an idea for the future of Cascade Cottages that is compatible with the mission of the National Park Service, please share your idea with us!

Comments must be received in writing by close of business on April 23, 2018. Comments can be submitted online by visiting: Look for “Cascade Cottages.”

Comments may also be sent to the following mailing address:

Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, CO 80517

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. Although you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee we will be able to do so.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Moose Research Continues In Rocky Mountain National Park

Late last summer, park staff began a moose research project to better understand how moose use habitat in Rocky Mountain National Park. Moose presence has been increasing annually on both the east and west sides of the park, with recent reports showing animals observed in every major drainage in the park.

As part of this research, National Park Service staff are collaring up to 40 moose throughout the park. Seven animals were collared on the west side of the park last year, and staff will begin collaring moose on the east side of the park this year as well. This research project will occur for the next five years, through 2022.

Information on moose population size, population growth rate, and carrying capacity as well as habitat use will be gathered from this by excessive browse for decades. During the course of executing this adaptive management plan, new challenges have emerged, including a noticeably growing and expanding research. Moose have not been previously GPS collared in the park, and affixing collars will assist greatly in collecting this important information. Moose will also be monitored for chronic wasting disease (CWD) and baseline health metrics will be collected, which will allow biologists to better understand the overall health of the park’s moose population.

Since 2008, Rocky Mountain National Park’s Elk and Vegetation Management Plan has been undergoing efforts to reestablish the natural range of variation to the elk population, as well as aspen and willow communities which have been impacted by moose populations in the park. Moose are wetland specialists, and can consume significant amounts of willow during the summer months. Aspen and willow are critical habitat for a wide and diverse array of wildlife species.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Phase 2 of Rim Rock Drive Repaving Starts Today

Beginning March 12, road work will start on Rim Rock Drive near the east entrance of Colorado National Monument. From March 12 to 14, the construction company will close one lane and use pilot vehicles to escort cars through the construction zone. Motorists should expect delays of 15-30 minutes. Due to the expected rough and potentially loose surfaces the National Park Service is asking bicyclists and motorcyclists to avoid this stretch of Rim Rock Drive during this time.

The second phase of this multi-phased project involves repairing and resurfacing the east hill of Rim Rock Drive, from the Grand Junction entrance and through the intersection with DS Road and then following DS Road to the monument boundary. Crews will be milling and pulverizing the current road surfaces, preparing the surfaces for paving and then laying new asphalt and concrete.

Superintendent Ken Mabery stated, “The goal of everyone associated with this project is to accomplish the needed work in a safe and efficient manner for the long term access needs of community members and visitors.”

Starting on March 15, the east hill of Rim Rock Drive will be temporarily closed from the Devils Kitchen trailhead and picnic area to Cold Shivers Point overlook for about one month. During this time traffic into the monument and those traveling to or through Glade Park will need to use the Little Park Road detour. Devils Kitchen trailhead and picnic area may be closed for a day or two as paving is completed immediately adjacent to them. DS road will be open to one way traffic with a pilot vehicle escorting motorists through the construction zones.

Visitors traveling from the Fruita entrance will be able to access the visitor center and go as far as the Cold Shivers Point overlook, approximately 15 miles beyond the visitor center. They will be able to exit the monument using DS Road.

Spring hours are now in effect at Colorado National Monument. The visitor center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. For additional information please visit or call 970-858-3617, ext. 360.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Colorado Trail Foundation Seeks Trail Crews

The Colorado Trail Foundation is seeking 10 trail crews - the most ever - to help with trail maintenance on the 500-mile trail.

Volunteer Trail Crews vary in length from one to eight days. The CTF provides training, tools, hardhats, meals (except for backpack crews), group camp equipment, and leadership. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to the crew location and for their personal equipment, including tent or camper, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, eating utensils, work clothes, and other personal items, as applicable. You can contact the crew leader for crew specifics.

For more information, please click here.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

National Park System Sees More Than 330 Million Visits

The National Park Service (NPS) today announced 330,882,751 recreation visits in 2017 – almost identical to the record-setting 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016. While numbers were steady, visitors actually spent more time in parks during their 2017 visits compared to 2016.

Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, also means aging park facilities are incurring further wear and tear. President Trump has proposed legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System. The fund would take new revenue from federal energy leasing and development and provide up to $18 billion to help pay for repairs and improvements in national parks, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.

“Our National Parks are being loved to death," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "As visitor rates continue at a high level, we must prioritize much-needed deferred maintenance including aging facilities, roads and other critical infrastructure. President Trump's proposal to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund is a step in the right direction. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue, and the President and I remain ready to work with anyone in Congress who is willing to get the job done.”

National Park System 2017 visitation highlights include:

• More than 1.44 billion recreation hours in 2017, an increase of 19 million hours over 2016

• Most – 385 of 417 parks in the National Park System – count park visitors

• 61 of the 385 reporting parks set new visitation records (about 16 percent of reporting parks)

• 42 parks broke a record they set in 2016

• 3 parks had more than 10 million recreation visits – Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

• 10 parks had more than 5 million recreation visits

• 81 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits – one more million-visitor park than 2016

• Half of national park visitation occurred in 27 parks

• The total solar eclipse last August brought visitors in record numbers to several parks

Top 10 Visitation National Parks: Recreation Visits (Deferred Maintenance Amount)

1) Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 11,388,893 ($215,451,902)

2) Grand Canyon National Park: 6,254,238 ($329,437,054)

3) Zion National Park: 4,504,812 ($65,291,893)

4) Rocky Mountain National Park: 4,437,215 ($84,234,245)

5) Yosemite National Park: 4,336,890 ($582,670,827)

6) Yellowstone National Park: 4,116,524 ($515,808,707)

7) Acadia National Park: 3,509,271 ($59,858,099)

8) Olympic National Park: 3,401,996 ($120,719,515)

9) Grand Teton National Park: 3,317,000 ($178,630,525)

10) Glacier National Park : 3,305,512 ($153,838,276)


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pikes Peak Summit Complex Project Proposal Moves Closer to Finalization

The Pikes Peak Summit Complex Project proposal Draft Decision Notice was released by Acting Forest and Grassland Supervisor Charles Oliver. Among other activities, the Draft Decision Notice would authorize a new Summit Visitor Center. The existing Summit House is proposed to be replaced with a larger, two-story facility set into the hillside. It would be positioned to visibly anchor with adjacent Mount Rosa, the location where Zebulon Pike first viewed Pikes Peak.

According to Oliver, “I’m excited to move this major project closer to completion. It follows years of planning and collaboration by many dedicated partners. Once approved, the new Summit House will certainly be a showcase for our nation and the U.S Forest Service.”

The Proposed Action Alternative protects the high-altitude tundra ecosystem and the cultural heritage of the landscape while addressing the need for access to the summit. The high-altitude tundra ecosystem will be protected to prevent damage from human infrastructure and activity. The structures and visitor center interpretive displays will reflect the rich history of Pikes Peak and the cultures that have called this area home.

The new visitor center, designated driving routes, parking areas, walking paths, and interpretive points, will offer a more natural and enhanced experience for all who visit or work at the summit.

Major annual events associated with Pikes Peak summit will continue, including the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. In addition, the Cog Railway, hiking trails, highway and viewing locations will all continue to be available.

This proposed decision is subject to objections. After this Decision Notice is signed, project implementation may begin as soon as this summer.

The City of Colorado Springs (City), Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain (PPAM), in partnership with Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), have proposed to design, construct and operate the Summit Complex in the Pike National Forest, in El Paso County, Colorado. The U.S. Forest Service is the federal lead Agency for this EA. The existing Complex is located on the top of Pikes Peak at an elevation of 14,115 feet. For additional information concerning this Draft Decision Notice, visit the Project website at:


Monday, March 5, 2018

Winter Ecology Series at Mesa Verde: Free Guided Hike Along the Petroglyph Point Trail

Observe winter birds and encounter Ancestral Pueblo sites during a hike along the Petroglyph Point Trail, Friday, March 9 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. Learn about the birds that call Mesa Verde their winter home, while hiking through the pinon-juniper woodlands of Mesa Verde, past archeological sites built hundreds of years ago. The guided hike is free, but there is a limit of 20 people so advance sign-up is required. Children should be at least 7 years old to join the hike. Dress warmly, bring water, and be prepared to hike 2.5 miles in winter conditions. Bring a bird field guide and binoculars if you have them. Meet at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, about a 45-minute drive from the park entrance.

To sign up for the hike, for weather conditions, and for more information on the hike, please call the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum at 970-529-4631. The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is located 20 miles from the park entrance, and is approximately a 45-minute drive. The park entrance fee is $15. More information of other upcoming hikes, visit


Friday, March 2, 2018

Rocky Mountain National Park To Allow Bicycle Use On Two-Mile Section Of East Shore Trail On The West Side Of Park

A Final Rule will be published in the Federal Register on March 2, 2018, that allows bicycle use on a two-mile section of the East Shore Trail within Rocky Mountain National Park. The rule can be found at Search for the regulation identifier number “1024-AE31.” The East Shore Trail is an existing hiking and equestrian trail on the west side of the park near the Town of Grand Lake. The East Shore Trail Area is excluded from the park’s designated wilderness.

Trail proponents, including the Headwaters Trails Alliance, will be responsible for completing work on the trail before it opens to public bicycle use. The timeline is still being negotiated.

After extensive public involvement, a decision document was signed that approved bicycle use on this two-mile section of the trail inside the park. Required trail reroutes to safely accommodate bicycle use triggered rulemaking per the National Park Service Bicycle Rule.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Decision Reached: Crater Trail To be Permanently Closed

A decision document has been signed by the Intermountain Regional Office, National Park Service that will enable Rocky Mountain National Park to permanently close the one-mile long Crater Trail to protect sensitive natural and cultural resources. For the past three years, the Crater Trail has been closed year-round pending the outcome of public input and a decision on the Environmental Assessment. Prior to that, the trail was typically closed annually from May to August 15, during the bighorn lambing season, and only open two months from mid-August through mid-October.

An Environmental Assessment for the Crater Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park was prepared in October 2017, to examine alternative actions and environmental impacts associated with the long-term management and use of the Crater Trail. The NPS previously conducted public scoping on the project in 2014 and 2016. The informal trail was never designed or constructed; instead it was user-created over time. The trail was steep and severely eroded in sections and impacting the alpine tundra. It also bisected a prehistoric archeological site.

As part of the decision, park staff will remove the existing footbridge near the trailhead and place signs informing visitors of the closure. The abandoned trail surface will be stabilized and revegetated with native vegetation to help restore natural conditions. The parking area at the trailhead will remain to provide parking for the Milner Pass area.