The Pike-San Isabel National Forests & Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands Salida Ranger District has been granted $755,000 in Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) funding to upgrade and add infrastructure on local national forest lands.
Planned and underway projects are prioritized in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan approved in June.
The Act was passed in 2020 to pay for major investments in recreation infrastructure, public lands access, and land and water conservation. Funding enables federal land managers to take aggressive steps to address deferred maintenance and other infrastructure projects on national forests and grasslands through 2025, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
“This really puts a spotlight on deferred maintenance,” said Ben Lara, Recreation and Lands Staff for the Salida Ranger District. “It’s well-timed because our infrastructure needed it before the COVID-19 pandemic and needs it even more now because of all the new visitation we’ve gotten.”
Local projects slated for the next two years encompass campgrounds, a popular trail and new or replacement restroom facilities in six locations.
Monarch Park Campground
The campground on Monarch Pass is popular with residents because it remains a first-come, first-served developed area, Lara said.
The agency is nearly finished managing a spruce beetle infestation that killed many trees in and around the campground and will partner with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to renovate the facility with $300,000 in GAOA funds for new picnic tables and metal fire rings, potentially adding more campsites and making some ADA-accessible.
“Visitors are looking for group type of sites where they can camp with a couple of families together,” Lara said. “They also have larger vehicles that need different parking and turn-arounds.”
The agency plans to retain the campground’s “feel” with good site separation, Lara said. Because so many trees were removed due to the infestation, there is an opportunity to expand and meet new and changing demands.
South Fooses Creek Trail
About $210,000 of GAOA funds will be spent to reroute the South Fooses Creek Trail as it currently meets with the Continental Divide above a wet meadow that has been identified as Boreal Toad habitat. Steep terrain and recreational use have resulted in deep channels causing unsafe conditions and erosion along the top portion of the trail, Lara said.
The agency is partnering with the Colorado Mountain Club to design and rebuild three trail miles in higher, flatter ground. The trail is popular with mountain bikers, some equestrians and hikers, including visitors using the Colorado Trail. Additional funding for the project includes $70,000 from a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Non-Motorized Trails grant and $25,000 from NFF.
The trail reroute will open for use in 2023.
Pit toilets will be replaced this year at the Denny Creek, Ptarmigan Lake and Marshall Pass Shirley Site trailheads, and the North Fork Reservoir and Bootleg campgrounds.
The district will reopen the Coaldale Campground next year with a new restroom. The campground offers tent pads, metal fire rings and trash service and has been closed due to flooding after the 2016 Hayden Pass Fire.
“There is a demand for facilities up Hayden Pass and as things are stabilizing after the wildfire, we look forward to opening up infrastructure to accommodate it,” Lara said.
The Forest Service, one of five federal entities receiving GAOA funds, will invest $285 million this year on maintenance projects. View a list of locations in the Rocky Mountain Region: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd892773.pdf
Lara said funding for local projects will be leveraged through the Chaffee Recreation Council’s efforts to raise an estimated $20 million by 2026 to implement the community recreation plan. Priorities outlined in the plan include $15 million for new infrastructure such as trail connectors, restrooms, and trash removal, as well as $5 million for maintenance.
“Partnerships are critical to build on the successful momentum of the Great American Outdoors Act, so we can ensure to leverage the federal commitment and be more successful in managing our infrastructure in the long-term,” he said.
For details about infrastructure projects and other initiatives in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan, visit https://envisionchaffeecounty.org/recreation-in-balance/.