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Boulder approves parking pilot program at Chautauqua Park

BOULDER, Colo. -- Good luck finding a parking spot of at one of the Colorado's favorite hiking locations. As more people move to the state, trails are filling up and getting to them is becoming more difficult.

Boulder city leaders are working to solve that problem at Chautauqua Park.

The park and its trailheads see thousands of visitors every day. It's Boulder's entryway to the mountains. That entryway is nearly impossible to access on a weekend, according to hikers.

"It's awful," Boulder resident Sarah Hanratty said. "You have to park on the side streets -- farther in the neighborhood."

Parking in area neighborhoods is something homeowners near Chautauqua Park are not thrilled about.

The problems boiled over at Boulder City Hall on Tuesday. After debate, the city council passed a summer pilot program it hopes will solve some of the issues.

"I think that it could have good and bad repercussions," hiker Stephanie Baxter said.

City leaders said the program, which could cost from $400,000 to $800,000, will create a system offering a free weekend shuttle bus, paid parking at the park on weekends at $2.50 an hour, plus permit parking in surrounding residential areas for Boulder residents.

Some of those who live near the park are worried a solution will not materialize before the busy summer hiking season.

"It's gorgeous," Hanratty said. "The hike is awesome."

Hanratty is hopeful for a less complicated solution of expanding the lot and not charging for parking. Baxter, who drives 30 miles to get to the park, agrees.

"Maybe I wouldn't come up from Denver as much having to pay for parking after driving so far," she said.

The council's approval, on an 8-1 vote, of the pilot program means park visitors can expect changes starting June 1 and going through Aug. 31.