Of­fi­cials work to man­age crowds at Ma­roon Bells

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ja­son Aus­lan­der

Pitkin County com­mis­sion­ers and U.S. For­est Ser­vice of­fi­cials are work­ing to de­velop plans to man­age the crowds trav­el­ing to Ma­roon Bells.

The Roar­ing Fork Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity trans­ported 2,000 peo­ple to the pic­turesque peaks on July 3.

“And we were prob­a­bly close to that on July 2, too,” said Kent Black­mer, co-di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions for RFTA.

That pop­u­lar­ity is prompt­ing for­est ser­vice of­fi­cials to study both the ef­fect of all those peo­ple for the long term and pro­vide another park­ing op­tion this fall for the short term when the mas­sive leaf-peep­ing crowds de­scend.

The de­mand for ser­vice to Ma­roon Bells dur­ing Septem­ber week­ends when the leaves start chang­ing is tremen­dous, Black­mer said.

“The Ma­roon Bells is be­com­ing like the en­trance to Dis­ney­land,” Pitkin County Board Chair­man Ge­orge New­man said last week.

Dur­ing nor­mal sum­mer days, RFTA pro­vides five buses to shuttle peo­ple be­tween Aspen High­lands and Ma­roon Lake, though this sum­mer’s de­mand has forced the agency to add a sixth bus, Black­mer said. Peo­ple can­not drive to the park­ing lot at Ma­roon Lake be­tween 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. dur­ing the sum­mer.

When the leaves be­gin to change in Septem­ber, RFTA more than dou­bles the num­ber of buses head­ing up Ma­roon Creek Road to 13, he said.

Daniel Petty, Den­ver Post file

Hik­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers and other vis­i­tors gather at Ma­roon Lake to en­joy views of the ma­jes­tic Ma­roon Bells near Aspen.

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