WEST GLACIER — After another hectic summer on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park administrators are turning their attention to a long term plan for managing future use on the Sun Road Corridor.
The plan is targeted at not only dealing with congestion, but improving the "visitor experience" on the iconic route through the heart of the park.
The draft plan has been under development for several years, as the park tries to figure out ways to handle the booming traffic on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which continues to be the most iconic, and visited, part of the park.
Glacier's visits have soared by 40% in the last few years, to more than 3-million people annually. That's not only putting the crunch on parking and convenient trails, but impacting what the park calls the "visitor experience". That's been especially true this year with congestion and multiple accidents on the busy road.
Now, the park's new Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor management plan is ready for public input. It suggests a number of proposals to ease congestion, including expanding the use of shuttles and buses, adding some hiking trails, expanding parking areas on the west and east ends of the road and implementing a day-use permit system for Logan Pass.
That parking and shuttle combination is likely to generate most of the interest. While the use of shuttles, and the iconic "red jammers" has been a popular way to reach Logan Pass, parking at the summit has continued to be a real problem, especially during the height of summer the past couple of years.
To address that, the Corridor Plan's "preferred option" calls for implementing "visitor capacities" at the most popular locations. For example, no more than 975 "people at one time" would be allowed at Avalanche, with 1,390 "people at one time" at Logan Pass. That would incorporate "metering" of traffic for private cars, limiting parking in some lots to day use only, and restricting overnight parking in the corridor during the peak summer season.
Permits for Logan Pass, St. Mary and Virginia Falls would include some held aside for "day of" purchase, but also use "timed entry" permits with reservations funded through a separate fee from the usual park entrance pass.
The plan’s proposed action includes the following management options:
- Expanding the shuttle system with additional buses, extended hours of daily service and six new stops
- Extending visitor center hours at Apgar and St. Mary Visitor Centers
- Adding approximately five miles of hiking trails, one-and-a-half miles of bike trails, and pit-toilets at a number of popular day-use areas
- Enhancing opportunities for bicycle use through the addition of bike trailers to shuttles, installing bike racks, and promoting bicycle-only events
- Improving circulation at Avalanche Campground by restoring a historic exit and converting camping to parking during peak season
- Managing traffic and parking using day-use parking permits for a portion of popular locations such as Logan Pass, St. Mary and Virginia Falls Trailhead, and prohibiting overnight parking in the corridor
- Constructing a new, 100-car parking lot on the west side of the park and expanding parking on the east side
The plan is open for public comment right now with comments due by Oct. 6. There will be a public hearing scheduled for sometime later this month. Click here to view the plan.