East Vail trailhead restrictions will continue this summer
Booth Lake trailhead will see a new restroom
Restrictions on East Vail trailhead use last summer lowered the number of people on those much-used trails. Changes are coming to continue that trend.
Town officials had worried for a few years about growing use, which put people, trash and pet and human waste on those trails. Trail use exploded in 2020 as people sought outdoor alternatives to indoor restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a good bit of talk about the damage from overuse of those trails.
While the trails themselves are in property controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, the trailheads are within town boundaries. Town officials in 2021 closed the Booth Lake trailhead parking area and boosted fines for street parking in the surrounding neighborhoods.
As opposed to fines elsewhere in town that are $50 for a first offense and $75 for the second, fines in the trailhead neighborhood were set at $100 for the first offense and $200 for the second. That didn’t work quite as planned.
Vail Police Commander Ryan Kenney told the Vail Town Council at that group’s March 15 meeting that people seemed willing to park and pay those fines. He recommended that the town go directly to towing violators this year, but only at the trailhead lot.
To keep speeds down in the neighborhoods surrounding the trailhead, there will be signs placed at the bottom of the road, seasonal speed bumps — speed bumps disrupt winter plowing — and a radar speed sign.
The town will also reopen the Booth Lake parking area, but for drop-off only. That dropoff parking won’t be available from mid-May to early July to accommodate construction of restroom facilities at the trailhead.
To enforce that, the town plans to have a code enforcement officer on site during the summer season.
People this summer will have to either bike or bus to that trailhead. Hotel guests will have to use either bikes, buses or hotel shuttles. The Vail Mountain School parking lot will be closed to non-school users as well.
Mayor Kim Langmaid, who has long championed ways to reduce trail overuse, told Kenney that if the town is encouraging more bike traffic, the town needs to have good bike racks at the site.
Vail Landscape Architect Gregg Barrie agreed, adding that the town could also put an e-bike sharing station at the site.
30%: Decline in Booth Lake trail users from August 2020 to August 2021
45%: Decline in Booth Lake trail users from September 2020 to September 2021.
35%: Decline in Bighorn trail use from September of 2020 to September 2021.