Hanging Lake shuttle to begin in May 2019 | VailDaily.com | VailDaily.com

Hanging Lake shuttle to begin in May 2019

Matthew Bennet
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

With the plans taking effect next spring, access to the popular Hanging Lake will be by reservation and a permit system. The city of Glenwood Springs is working on plans to submit a plan to provide a shuttle system to transport passengers to the site east of Glenwood.

Effectively managing visitation at Hanging Lake has been a challenge for the Forest Service for years. Now the federal agency has partnered with the city of Glenwood Springs to offer a seasonal shuttle service and a year-round reservation system to access the lake, one of Colorado’s most popular, scenic destinations.

According to a news release from the Forest Service and the city of Glenwood Springs, the management plan for Hanging Lake will cap the number of daily visitors at 615 per day year-round in an effort to better protect resources, manage vehicle and pedestrian congestion, and improve safety.

“The Forest Service is excited about the opportunity to partner with the city of Glenwood Springs to effectively manage Hanging Lake and improve the visitor experience for everyone,” Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville stated in the news release. “We are currently working out the details for the transportation and reservation system, but expect to begin shuttle operations in May of 2019.”

The Hanging Lake Management Plan, which has been in the making for years, needs specifics such as the shuttle provider, shuttle cost and how to obtain a reservation still worked out; however, both the federal agency and the city seemed confident such details would in fact be hammered out well before this summer.

“I am pleased that the United States Forest Service and the city of Glenwood Springs are able to work together to protect Hanging Lake, while continuing to provide access to our residents and visitors. I look forward to a successful partnership,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba also stated in the news release.

The Hanging Lake management plan will be in effect year-round. However, during the slower season — November through April — while Hanging Lake will still adhere to the daily capacity policy through the fee-based reservation system, visitors must access the area using their own forms of transportation as the shuttle service will run during only the busier months of May through October, according to Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa.

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“We are hoping to get a RFQ [Request For Qualifications] out within the next two weeks,” Figueroa told the Post Independent Thursday. “That will be a responsibility of the city.”

Where exactly the shuttle service would leave from in Glenwood still remains in question.

“We need to pick the transportation vendor and then work that out,” Figueroa added.

Although the Glenwood shuttle service to Hanging Lake will not run during the “off-peak” months of November to April, guests still wishing to visit the destination during that time will still need a reservation.

“People will still have to purchase a ticket through whatever software or website that is used,” Figueroa explained.

Although the initial plan calls for the shuttle service to run from May to October, Figueroa said that the program would get re-evaluated annually.

“I think this is a really good partnership, but I think we are both going into it with our eyes open knowing that it is not going to be perfectly smooth, but we have agreed to sit down, keep talking and make sure we continue to improve it,” Figueroa added.

According to trail data detailed in the news release, in 2017 roughly 184,000 people visited Hanging Lake. This marked a 23 percent increase in visitation in just one year, which underlined to the Forest Service the need for a strategic management plan like the one struck with Glenwood Springs.

“I am really excited that we are working together with the Forest Service to protect Hanging Lake and provide an excellent visitor experience for our residents and tourists,” Figueroa said.

mabennett@postindependent.com