Welcome to a new week, Boulder. I hope your weekend was wonderful.

For today, Jenna Sampson brings you a story about a possible change coming to the Hessie Trailhead. The popular spot just above Nederland is a nightmare for outdoor enthusiasts in the summer. Following the lead of Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder County is considering reservations for the trailhead to deal with the crowds that a shuttle has been unable to fix.

Also, Boulder business groups are collaborating on ideas to tackle homelessness. Their newly released policy statement supports the concept of a day center where homeless people could access a range of services — though the Boulder Chamber said it has not endorsed the Folsom Street location the city has so far selected for such a center.

Enjoy the day.

— Tim, reporter

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What to know today

  • Clouds still around, but getting warmer: In the 70s and 80s this week with some sun, though that sun will come intermixed with thunderstorms. And those thunderstorms might come intermixed with rain. The greening up of Colorado continues.
  • Boulder Chamber, business groups back day center concept, undecided on location: The Boulder Chamber, Downtown Boulder Partnership and Visit Boulder released a policy statement last week on how they think the city and county should respond to homelessness. It includes supporting a 24/7 shelter (Boulder’s main shelter in North Boulder is closed during the day), increasing patrols along multi-use paths, and studying a pilot program for a “safe outdoor space,” where people would be able to sleep legally in tenets, cars or other forms of temporary shelter.
    • We reported on a draft of the policy position last month. It is partially a response to business owners who have said people sleeping in public spaces and entrance ways is affecting their businesses. With additional homeless services, the groups said, they seek to “save lives.” At the same time, additional services could help minimize legal risks for the city if it increases enforcement of its camping ban. The camping ban prohibits homeless people from sleeping in public spaces. Cities that do not provide adequate overnight options for homeless people, while also prohibiting sleeping in public spaces, have faced civil rights challenges under the U.S. Constitution. (The ACLU of Colorado has already sued the city.)
    • This policy position will be put to the test in the coming months. The City of Boulder has found a vacant office building off Folsom Street where it would like to create a day services center to help homeless people access a range of to-be-decided services — legal aid, storage, showers, navigation services for public assistance. Some businesses have said the city should conduct an economic impact study of how the center would affect the area, in the first murmurings of opposition from neighbors.
    • While the Boulder Chamber and other business groups are supporting a day center conceptually, they have not endorsed the current location, according to John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber. Tayer said the chamber is planning to convene a meeting with businesses and city officials to learn more about the project before coming up with a position. “We are one community,” Tayer said. “We need to look for solutions for the community at large while making sure that those solutions do not impact certain neighborhoods.”
  • Impressively bad air quality: The Boulder area enjoyed some of the worst air in the world on Friday after a cold front carried in the results of Canadian wildfires. An air quality alert that began on Friday and lasted through Saturday encouraged everyone to stay inside and run their air through a filter. As we head into summer, and air quality along the Front Range is already bad in part due to oil and gas production combining with sunshine, it was likely a test run of what’s to come.
    • For now at least, it seems we’re through the worst of the impact from Canada, and Boulder’s air quality index is trending towards healthier levels.
  • Barker dam spillover: Barker Reservoir just below Nederland is expected to begin spilling in the next few days, prompted by recent precipitation and snowmelt. The overflow will result in increased water levels in Boulder Creek, extending throughout the city. Residents are encouraged to be cautious near the creek during this period of high flow that might continue for several weeks.
  • More bikes for Boulder: Mobility for All, Community Cycles and Boulder County Housing Authority are joining forces to bring more bikes and bike maintenance to residents living in affordable housing in the county. Through the Earn-a-Bike and tune-up programs, the initiative will provide access to bicycles and teach workshops on bike care, repair, commuting and safety.
    • “We hope this project’s success will lead to an increase in bike ridership, and help make it feasible for residents to bike to work and families to bike for recreation, creating a more equitable community,” said Sandee Cirian, project manager for Community Cycles.

Go Deeper…

Boulder County considers timed-entry system at Hessie Trailhead, following national park reservation trend

In 2020, Rocky Mountain National Park became the first national park to require a reservation, establishing a model that has been proliferating ever since. Eldorado Canyon became the first state park in Colorado to do so last year. And now, Boulder County is considering timed entry for the first time as well, at its booming Hessie Trailhead. 

Hessie Trailhead, five miles west of Nederland just past the unincorporated community of Eldora, is a key access point into a buffet of high-ranking destinations in the Indian Peaks Wilderness — including Lost Lake, King Lake and Devil’s Thumb. As such, the visitor profile is remarkable during prime hiking season. Almost 14,000 people passed through last July alone, according to the county, peaking at over 800 people on Saturday July 2, 2022. 

“The way we are managing Hessie right now takes a lot of staff resources,” said Alex Hyde-Wright, a transportation manager with Boulder County, “and ultimately is not sustainable.” 

Continue reading…

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BRL Picks

📅 Classic Memorial Day events: The Boulder Creek Festival is coming to downtown Boulder from May 26-29. A range of activities will be featured, including live music, a Street Wise Art Battle and local eats, among other options. The Creekside Beer Fest will also be taking place, with over 20 breweries participating. Also on May 29, the famed BOLDERBoulder race, which was founded in 1979, is happening. Register here.

🎞️ Food and Country: On June 14, KUNC will be hosting food critic, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine, and best-selling author Ruth Reichl for a special screening of her documentary “Food and Country” at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder. In the film, “Reichl worries about the fate of small farmers, ranchers, and chefs as they wrestle with both immediate and systemic challenges.” Tickets here.

🏥 Dementia workshop: The Boulder County Area Agency on Aging is hosting a free “Dealing with Dementia” workshop on June 12. This in-person event aims to support family caregivers in effectively managing dementia behaviors and promoting self-care. Interested participants can register by contacting Rebekah Van Sweden at 303-441-3945 or InfoCaregiver@bouldercounty.org.

For ideas on what else to do, check out BRL’s Local Events page.


Tim Drugan

Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other climate-related issues for Boulder with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.