AmeriCorps volunteers remove an old fence on National Forest lands north of Buena Vista, on June 5, 2023, to improve mule deer and elk habitat on the east side of County Road 371. The Chaffee Rec Adopters event was among several so far this year that improve conditions on public lands to keep the outdoors clean, fun and wild, as outlined the County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan. Photo courtesy of Envision Chaffee County
The Chaffee Recreation Taskforce met online on Tuesday, Aug. 1 to discuss updates to infrastructure in river parks in both Salida and Buena Vista. They also discussed the Chaffee Rec Collector mobile app that helps agencies and volunteers monitor conditions at campsites, trails, trailheads, and town parks.
The Chaffee Recreation Council is organized and funded as a result of the county’s Common Ground ballot question, in which Chaffee voters approved a small sales tax to fund wildfire mitigation, protection of our working agricultural lands, and better management of recreational resources.
The agenda included a camping update to share information about the conversion from open to designated dispersed sites on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in Chaffee County. A volunteer event on Friday, Aug. 4, helped the BLM create designated campsites at the popular Shavano camping area on CR250.
The Chaffee Recreation Council has just shared its 2023 Annual Report to the Community, outlining progress toward implementing the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan. The plan’s goals are to protect natural resources, maintain exceptional outdoor experiences, and sustain the economic benefits of tourism as population and visitation grow.
The 2023 annual report
created by Envision Chaffee County for the Chaffee Recreation Council outlines these major achievements:
- Adding 16 new recreation management staff
- Providing 25 temporary restrooms
- Adding two dozen wildfire danger signs
- Removing 25,000 pounds of trash and ash from campsites
- Improving seven trails
- Building two new trails
- Funding seven wildlife habitat projects
- Raising $7.4 million
The plan was initially approved in June 2021 by the County Planning Commission and incorporated into the County Comprehensive Plan. Broad initiatives outlined in the plan are designed to manage the impacts of growth in outdoor use through new programs, infrastructure, and maintenance on public lands and in the towns.
Broad initiatives outlined in the plan are designed to manage the impacts of growth in outdoor use through new programs, infrastructure, and maintenance on public lands and in the towns.
The Council’s strategies involve new infrastructure such as restrooms, trash disposal, and designated campsites; improving the trails system; adding more education, enforcement, and volunteer stewardship; ensuring equitable access to the outdoors; and protecting natural resources, especially by supporting wildlife habitat and agricultural operations.
The Chaffee Recreation Council, comprised of 21 leaders from town and county government, federal and state land management agencies, and the tourism and agriculture sectors, is tasked with implementing the plan.
“Working together under the county plan is helping to address concerns about the impacts of over-use on all lands, from Wilderness Areas to trails systems to dispersed camping to town parks,” said Chuck Cichowitz, an active backcountry guide for 40 years and member of the Chaffee Recreation Council. “The level of collaboration among outdoor-related groups and entities is improving as we focus on achieving strategies that help manage fast-paced growth.”
The Chaffee Recreation Council’s approach to planning and management has become a model for communities facing similar challenges across the state, especially through the Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships Initiative, which is supported by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). Partners are working with Lake and Gunnison counties to expand wildlife habitat modeling across county borders, and they are involved in a statewide initiative to sustainably manage the popularity of hiking Colorado’s Fourteeners.
The report concludes that, while progress is happening, continued growth in visitation presents challenges, especially in the areas of waste management, dispersed camping implementation, and the need for more funding. The full report
is available online at envisionchaffeecounty.org
, under Recreation in Balance
The Recreation Taskforce connects diverse stakeholders to work together in managing outdoor visitation for a healthy environment, excellent experiences and local economic benefit. A specific agenda is developed for each meeting with updates on progress and opportunities to learn, provide input and make a difference. All community members are invited to participate by sending a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comprised of 21 leaders from town and county government, federal and state land management agencies, and the tourism and agriculture sectors, the council is tasked with implementing the plan, and helping to address concerns about the impacts of over-use on all lands, from Wilderness Areas to trail systems to dispersed camping to town parks.
Report highlights are available in a 3-minute video (https://youtu.be/m7JhcWRA8Q8) or by visiting envisionchaffeecounty.org, under Recreation in Balance.