Vail council hikes parking fines near popular trail
Town working to limit neighborhood congestion near Booth Creek trail
It’s going to be expensive to illegally park this summer in an area near the Booth Creek trailhead.
The Vail Town Council earlier this year closed trailhead parking in an effort to cut congestion and other problems in the area. Expanding that effort, the town has increased parking fines on roads in the area including a portion of North Frontage Road, Mann’s Ranch Road, Booth Falls Road and Booth Falls Court.
Under the new fine structure — approved Tuesday with a unanimous Vail Town Council vote — a first offense will cost $100. A second offense is $200. A third is $300.
Vail Police Commander Craig Bettis told council members the fine structure follows the recommendation of a resident committee. But, he added, the new fines won’t replace warnings and education.
Council members for a couple of years have been working to try to reduce use on the Booth Creek trail. Council members for the past few years have been worried about environmental degradation on the trail, along with increasing amounts of trash, as well as pet and human waste.
The ultimate answer may be establishing a reservation system for the Booth Creek trail similar to those now in place at Hanging Lake and Maroon Bells. But that will require action from the U.S. Forest Service, since the bulk of the trail is in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.
Town and Forest Service officials have been working since 2018 on a management plan for the trail, but no restrictions are on the immediate horizon.
Council member Kevin Foley said he supports the new rules on town streets, but a management plan similar to the one at Hanging Lake “is going to be our best bet.”
Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said while council members received several emails supporting the increased fine, he noted that one resident wondered if the new fines might be “heavy handed.” Chapin noted he’d recently been in another resort area where fines were $150 in an area similar to the Booth Creek area.
Council member Kim Langmaid, who has lobbied in the past for use restrictions on the trail, said other residents in the area have worried that the no-parking zones and fines may not be adequate.
East Vail resident Penny Wilson asked council members if the parking restrictions will apply to those trying to park at the neighborhood park and tennis courts.
Chapin told Wilson enforcement will require a greater police presence in the area.
“I do have concerns about the park,” Chapin said. “We’re just going to have to monitor it.”
Describing the situation in the neighborhood, Foley said simply, “It’s a cluster.”
“It is,” Council member Jen Mason replied. “But that’sds why we have to try (to control use).”
A first-time parking ticket in the area will cost $100.
Trail use in 2020 increased an average of more than 65% over 2019.
Some parking will be available at Vail Mountain School, when the school isn’t using the lot.
Signs will be posted throughout the closure area.