COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- This week starts the second of three planned road closures in North Cheyenne Cañon Park, in the southwestern corner of Colorado Springs.
The city is closing the main road through the popular park, North Cheyenne Cañon Road, for most of May in order to expand and pave a parking lot at the top of the park above Helen Hunt Falls.
The parking lot is a popular place for people to access a variety of trails in the area; also closed for the project is the stretch of Lower Gold Camp Road within the park -- often considered the back way in -- which has been blocked by a large boulder for a week while authorities determine how to remove it.
Entry gates on both roads were locked Monday.
David Deitemeyer, the city's senior landscape architect, said that the project will increase the number of parking spaces to 92, reduce erosion, improve drainage and cut back on illegal parking.
"We've had issues, especially last year with COVID and the amount of cars going up there," he said. "People were just making parking spaces in the middle of the road. We had situations where the police department would ticket or tow the vehicles."
Deitemeyer said that more than a million people visit the park annually to see Helen Hunt Falls, the Starsmore Discovery Center and use the network of trails.
"People can still use the park by hiking or biking the trails in the park," he said. "There's plenty of parking in the lots near Starsmore. People who live along the road or people who have to make deliveries will be able to access the road. Our goal is to have the project finished before Memorial Day weekend."
The length of that closure, however, pales in comparison to the next one.
In September, North Cheyenne Cañon Road will close until the end of May 2022 so that three old bridges can be replaced. Lower Gold Camp Road will remain open, as will the park itself.
"We're doing it in the off-season and over the winter when there are fewer visitors," said Aaron Egbert, a senior city engineer. "And it is a challenge. We understand it's a disruption. But the park will still be open. And it's really important that we renew and upgrade our infrastructure in that canyon, so that it'll last for another 100 years."
Earlier this year, the city closed the road on weekdays for a month so that workers could build a bypass around the bridge that has the lowest weight limit. The bypass is designed for use by heavier vehicles and emergency vehicles.
The bypass is now part of a two-way stop with signs and flashing red lights.
The parking lot project will cost $320,000 and the bridge replacements will cost $6 million.