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Natural Areas

July 2018

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the future of Gateway Natural Area and the management recommendations.

The plan is being finalized and will be shared here, with anyone who commented and asked to be emailed, and at

The Cache la Poudre River at Gateway Natural Area

Gateway Natural Area

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Visitor Use and Parking

In 2017 an estimated 50,325 visitors came to Gateway. Ten years ago, visitation was estimated at 30,000. Increasing visitation has caused several issues including crowding at the entrance and safety concerns on busy days. On crowded days Gateway’s entrance becomes congested with rafters and tubers launching at the ramp, vehicles turning around, and pedestrians. Additionally, visitors park on Highway 14 and walk down the dangerous, narrow, and steep-walled driveway without a shoulder or pedestrian lane. Since 2017, an overflow parking area was closed because it required additional staff to direct and manage traffic. The overflow parking area is adjacent to and may also disturb the regionally significant maternity colony of little brown bats that are currently using the historic water treatment building to roost and raise young.

To address visitor use and parking issues the management plan recommends:

  • Improve overall traffic flow through parking lot redesign and adding 3-5 parking spots.
  • To increase safety, discontinue pedestrian access from Hwy 287 via the steep walled driveway.
  • Alert visitors that the parking lot is full at Gateway’s entrance (potentially an electric sign if feasible).
  • Continue closure of overflow parking to avoid disturbance to the bat colony, reduce management time, and manage crowding.

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Natural Resources

Gateway Natural Area hosts a variety of ecosystems including mixed forests, shrublands, grasslands, and riparian communities. Seven rare plants and eight rare wildlife species have been documented, but further information is needed to better conserve these species. The historic water treatment building hosts a significant maternity colony of little brown bats. The picnic area’s large shade trees are approaching the end of their natural lifespan, so new tree plantings are proposed to replace them as they naturally age. Additionally, past wildfires have reduced the pine forest and restoration may include planting trees in the burned areas should natural regeneration not occur. The Natural Areas Department also plans to continue to treat exotic plants including cheatgrass, Dalmatian toadflax, volunteer rye, and mullein. 

 To conserve natural resources the management plan recommends:

  • Conserve the seven rare plants and eight rare wildlife species that occur on Gateway.
  • Plant new trees to replace aging trees in the picnic area via “shadow planting.”
  • Continue to remove non-native exotic plants.
  • Monitor natural pine regeneration and potentially plant ponderosa pine and Douglas fir seedlings.
  • Conserve the breeding population of little brown bats in the historic water treatment building by minimizing disturbance and monitoring for white-nose syndrome.
  • Inventory and monitor wildlife including invertebrates, breeding birds, and the Natural Area Department’s Species of Interest (see NAD Wildlife Conservation Guidelines, 2017).

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Natural Playground

Options are being explored to update the natural playground at Gateway. Your feedback will help in understanding how the playground is being used now, and will inform future decisions.

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Financial Stability

Gateway Natural Area has a park-like setting that differs from traditional natural areas, requiring additional infrastructure and management resources. When the Natural Areas Department assumed management of Gateway in 2006 they continued to charge entrance fees (in alignment with previous management by the City of Fort Collins Parks Department). Entrance fees and commercial use permits cover a variety of expenses, but revenues fall short by approximately $75,000/year. To help cover these expenses the Natural Areas Department will be increasing the daily entrance fee by $1, annual permits by $10, shelter reservations by $30, and commercial use fees as determined in the Department’s Commercial Use Permit policies. Additionally, year-round entrance fees will be charged to all individuals who enter the natural area or use the boat ramp.  There are currently no entrance fees collected in December, January, or February. Pending the City’s budget approval in November, these fee changes will be effective in 2019.

 To address financial sustainability the management plan recommends:

  • If approved through the City’s budget process, the fee structure below will be effective in 2019.
    • Daily entrance fee $7, annual permit $40, shelter rental $80, and commercial use fees as determined in the Natural Areas Department’s Commercial Use Permit policies.
    • Collect entrance fees year-round.
    • Collect entrance fees from all individuals that enter or use the boat ramp.

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Picnic Rock

The Picnic Rock area, downstream of Gateway along Highway 14, is primarily owned by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  The Natural Areas Department has a Memorandum of Understanding with CPW for operations at lower Picnic Rock. The City of Fort Collins Utilities Department owns a portion of the lower Picnic Rock main parking lot. The Gateway maintenance staff cleans the bathrooms, removes trash, and manages the parking lot, which was resurfaced in the Spring of 2018. This level of service is proposed to continue.

At Picnic Rock the management plan recommends:

  • The Natural Areas Department removes trash, cleans bathrooms, and maintains the parking lot at Picnic Rock. The recommendation is to continue.

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Hikers on the Black Powder Trail at Gateway Natural Area

Hikers on the Black Powder Trail at Gateway Natural Area