Mesa Verde National Park Working On Plan For Better Managing Visitors

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Mesa Verde officials are developing a plan that should make it easier for visitors to enjoy the park/NPS

Spread out on the fingers of mesas, with visitation greatly restricted, Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado can be a conjested place at times of peak visitation. Knowing that, park officials are embarking on a plan to better handle visitor distribution and transportation in the park.

As park officials put it, "The purpose of the plan is to reduce visitor congestion at key locations within the park, to protect the cultural and natural resources in the park, to enhance the visitor experience, and to develop a comprehensive and sustainable strategy for how visitors access and experience the park."

If you've never visited Mesa Verde, the park has restrictions in place to prevent folks from wandering off and perhaps finding, or disturbing, artifacts. There are a couple narrow roads that bring you into the park, and take you to sites open to the public, and these routes can get busy during the summer months. So busy, say park officials, that the current transportation system is "constrained and outdated."

"This system currently lends itself to high concentrations of visitors in some locations during certain times of the year, while leaving other sites and areas of the park virtually unvisited. Also, opportunities for visitors to access the park via any means other than their own vehicles are limited," a park release explained. "Visitors coming to the park during the summer months may face long waits, disappointment, and frustration instead of the experience they had expected. Less obvious, but equally important, is the fact that as visitors drive throughout the park, tailpipe emissions from their cars turn into haze and air pollution which can diminish views and harm plants, animals, and archeological sites across the landscape – the very landscape the National Park Service is charged with protecting."

Under the proposal now open for your comments, the goals are to:

* Offer multi-modal visitor experiences

* Provide visitors an experience that limits the number of times they need to park their vehicle

* Clearly define trails for pedestrian and bike connections

* Limit resource impacts to previously disturbed areas

* Enhance visitor education on natural resources found in the park, and

* Use the park’s shuttle system to provide the greatest benefit to the most visitors.

Management alternatives may include a variety of methods to enhance the visitor experience, provide multi-modal transportation opportunities within the park, and limit or reduce impacts on park resources.

Park officials currently are in the scoping phase of this project, and invite you to submit your written comments online.

If you are unable to submit comments electronically through this website, then you may submit written comments to: National Park Service Denver Service Center c/o Treff Alexander P.O. Box 25287 Denver, CO 80225 Please provide comments by July 14, 2014.

Comments

Sounds like it's heading towards mandatory trams, that will have some routes to other parts of the park that get less visitors. If the more popular routes are booked out, then they can go into another section that isn't booked out. Sounds like a much better win-win, then everyone attempting to be crammed into the same few spots. Since there is only one way in, and one way out of Mesa Verde, it sounds a lot more pleasant. The best move Zion NP ever did was move to mandatory buses in Zion Canyon during the busy season.

I wonder if at popular parks like this there should just be a visitor permit system, with maybe 500 visitors allowed per day. I don't know how NPS can manage such crowds and maintain anything like a park experience, whether the visitors are in cars, trams, or trains, or on foot. Maybe it's time to begin serious rationing.

I think that's a good solution for many parks with sensitive features. Redwoods National Park has a limited permit of 50 cars per day to access the Tall Trees section. You have to pay a small fee, then they give you a gate acess code, that you use to enter into the road. Pretty non-intrusive, and with the limits on crowds, it makes the solitude greater in a place that would surely be a lot more packed if those limits weren't in place.

Mesa Verde has similar permit limits to go on their guided tours, but the park roads are open to all traffic from what I remember.