July 07, 2021 3 min read
What are the biggest issues facing CBCC for the 2021 season and beyond?
Our biggest issue this season is getting people educated about the changes to the camping landscape. This primarily includes getting people to understand and adhere to the new designated camping regulations. I think a big challenge is making people understand that backcountry areas do have limits. Not just around CB, but everywhere, and with the growth in popularity and ease of access these areas cannot continue to go unregulated. As always, human waste is a big issue for us; we find a lot of it along with left behind make-shift toilets. Another is resource damage. This results from people driving off-road to set up new camping areas or from folks driving off-road to get around snow plugs. One instance of this isn't that bad, but what people don't understand is that once one person does it, it makes it ok in the eyes of others. A good example is the road that got burned in (i.e. created) on Paradise Divide this year. If one or two vehicles drove around the snow, the vegetation might have bounced back, but once the tire tracks go in everyone follows them. Now you have what essentially looks like a purpose-built road where before there was green vegetation and flowers.
Can you run us through some numbers?
On average, we have pulled around 1,000 pounds of trash out of the backcountry each of the past four years. We find either TP and or human waste every day that we take on campsite clean-up work. These items are also found at popular trailheads as well—especially toilet paper. It would be really great if people realized how easy it is to carry out TP. Just put it in a little plastic bag!
It is hard to put a number on the increase in camping as we have had no way of tracking that in the past. There has clearly been an increase in campers/visitors in the past ten years, though, and the new camping regulation is a result of that. Moving forward we will be able to track occupancy as we can visit each designated site and easily record if it is occupied or not.
Tell us about the new camping restrictions on Slate and Washington Gulch.
Camping in Slate River and Washington Gulch is now limited to designated sites only. We have designated many of the sites historically used by campers, but the sites are now marked by a wooden post with a number and camping symbol attached. Designated sites are also marked by the presence of a metal fire ring. The designation of sites helps to isolate the negative impacts of camping to areas that have already been impacted historically and prevent further degradation of the landscape. This also helps to protect riparian vegetation and wetlands—something we have very little of in the Gunnison National Forest.
Are you hopeful for the future of camping and recreation in the Gunnison Valley?
Of course! I think as recreation becomes more popular there will be some learning curves as we adjust to new users and new crowds, but I hope that we will start to embrace the continued presence of recreationalists by improving our infrastructure. We may also have to adjust to new regulations as well, but yes, I am hopeful.
What is the number one thing someone reading this can do to help?
Be respectful of the environment and other user groups, and clean up after yourself.
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