Fish Creek Falls shuttle service eyed by Forest Service
May 17, 2017
Steamboat Springs — The parking lot at Fish Creek Falls can become such a zoo in July, it sometimes takes a friendly volunteer to help manage the cascading traffic.
Now, with visitation to the 238-foot-tall waterfall steadily increasing year after year, the U.S. Forest Service is eying a possible shuttle service to take pressure off the parking lot.
Forest Service District Ranger Chad Stewart said his agency has been collecting around $10,000 more annually in recent years than it used to from day-use permits that are sold at the trailhead.
At $5 a car, a $10,000 increase would represent an annual gain of 2,000 vehicles in the parking lot.
"I would describe (the parking situation) as above capacity on the weekends," Stewart said. "We've also seen the season getting longer too. People are coming to visit earlier and later."
The parking lot gets so full on occasion the Forest Service has had to turn some visitors away.
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Stewart thinks granting some commercial shuttles access to the parking lot could help.
The Forest Service recently sent out a call seeking applications from shuttle companies interested in having access to the attraction.
By a May 15 application deadline, Stewart said two companies had responded.
He's hoping more applicants will step forward for consideration despite the deadline passing.
The shuttle operator would need to pay for a permit for access to the site.
Stewart said there would be a trial period for the shuttle service.
Applicants might also be able to guide clients to the falls, the Uranium Mine and along an overlook trail.
Storm Mountain Express owner Michael Van Vliet was one of the two applicants to express interest.
He thinks that in addition to tourists and lodging properties, local daycares or organizers of special events would be interested in utilizing a shuttle service to the falls.
"It's a beautiful experience," Van Vliet said of hiking around the waterfall. "The wilderness, the energy, and the water of course."
The challenge, Van Vliet said, will be convincing some tourists and others to leave their cars at home.
"Getting people out of their cars really is a challenge," he said. "Americans love their vehicles."
Getting the shuttle fare low enough to be enticing for a visitor and economical for an operator could also be a challenge, he said, because the demand for the shuttle will have to be high.
A Storm Mountain driver would need to be paid for at least three man-hours on a shift, meaning the ridership would have to be high enough to cover costs.
"The price point is critical," he said.