The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is preparing to develop a plan to manage camping and associated vehicle routes in Chaffee County and is seeking early public input to help inform this plan. The need to develop a Chaffee County camping management plan is in direct response to increased demand for high-quality camping experiences combined with documented increases in impacts to natural resources; increases in human waste due to lack of facilities, trash, as well as conflicts between visitors and other public lands users.
In short, campers have left the region’s public lands in sad shape and something needs to be done now to preserve the experience.
The plan’s goal is to address issues and concerns associated with camping on public lands as well as meet the demand for a range of camping opportunities. There is also a need to establish a designated route network for areas with high camping demand. A travel management plan is not currently in place in highly visited areas such as Shavano. The plan also intends to put into place monitoring and adaptive management strategies to respond to changes in demand and visitor behavior.
Royal Gorge Field Manager Keith Berger explained “Dispersed camping on public lands in Chaffee County has grown in popularity over the past few years and this open house will help us get poised to begin a formal planning effort. We are eager to hear from the public and get their perspectives on minimizing impacts to resources and existing uses to ensure everyone can continue enjoying their public lands.”
Chaffee County estimates that recreation use grew by 12 percent per year from 2016 to 2019 based on visitor spending data. BLM-managed lands in the county have seen some of the largest increases in use in recent years, as well as an increase in impacts.
The planning effort is intended to support the county’s “Recreation in Balance” initiative, a collaborative effort between private organizations, nonprofit groups, and local, state, and Federal agencies.
The BLM will seek public comment on the plan through May 20. Specific types of input are being sought which include the following questions:
- Are there certain areas where BLM should limit camping to designated sites only? Which areas? And in these areas are there existing campsites that should or should not be designated and why?
- Are there areas where BLM should consider constructing a developed campground to best meet demand and manage impacts to resources?
- Are there areas where BLM should consider not allowing camping?
- In the Shavano area, how should BLM think about managing camping in response to the high volume of demand the area has recently seen? Are there any roads in this area that should be closed or designated to best manage camping and reduce impacts to other public land users and neighbors?