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This week, nearly 30 portable toilets appeared at more than a dozen trailheads and popular recreation areas in Chaffee County, part of a “Keep it Clean” initiative by the Chaffee Recreation Council. The Privy project’s mission is to keep human waste off public lands.

The temporary toilets and free Waste Alleviation and Gelling (WAG) bags keep lands cleaner while promoting responsible recreation. The port-a-potties are funded by Chaffee Common Ground grants awarded to the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) and Salida Mountain Trails.

Lia Hovezak, a Recreation Ranger with the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, holds a wag bag while standing in front of one of 28 new port-a-potties placed at popular recreation areas in Chaffee County this week. The waste management program is funded by Chaffee Common Ground grants and includes responsible recreation education paid for by Chaffee County Visitors Bureau. Photo by Envision Chaffee County

Public land agency staff recommended high-traffic areas for the privy sites where human waste has been prevalent. In addition to being unsightly and smelly, human waste can contaminate water sources and takes a long time to biodegrade in desert environments.

The Chaffee County Visitors Bureau (CCCB) purchased advertising space on the “loos” to promote educational messages to visitors at the high-use areas, reminding them of the obvious, but often ignored message to “leave no trace.”

Nine campfire safety points on the signs include advice such as “Keep fires small and manageable” and “Do not build a fire in windy conditions,” as well as a direct Web link to local fire restrictions.

CCVB’s education also addresses local behavioral challenges identified by Envision Chaffee County, through requests to not create a new campsite or campfire ring, and to manage dog feces because “If your dog poops and no one is watching you still have to pick it up.”

The signs include the Adventure By Nature Pledge that asks visitors to “Stay on the trail,” “Be respectful,” “Recreate responsibly” and “Leave no trace.” CCVB’s advertising helps offset costs of making the port-a-potties available from May to October.

Public lands port-a-potties

Port-a-potties at Riverside: Boaters socialize and organize gear after running The Numbers section on the Arkansas River north of Buena Vista on Saturday, June 25, 2022. The Riverside takeout is a popular camping and parking spot and was chosen by the AHRA for a new set of port-a-potties to help keep the area and river clean of human waste. Photo by Envision Chaffee County

There are now port-a-pottie locations at Tunnel View, Riverside, Elephant Rock, Rapid #4 and Stone Cabin in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area; Browns Creek, South Cottonwood Creek, North Cottonwood Creek and Mushroom Gulch on National Forest lands; Beasway and three additional trailheads in the Salida trails system; and a newly designated camping area in Chubb Park owned by the Colorado State Land Board.

CCVB purchased 1,000 WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) bags that Chaffee Rec Rangers are handing out to campers who do not have an alternative such as a portable toilet system or public bathroom near their campsite. Wag bags are puncture-resistant with a solidifying agent that contains smells within the bag.

The project addresses an immediate need as visitation grows while providing time to pursue permanent vault toilets, said GARNA Executive Director Dominique Naccarato.

A member of the Chaffee Rec Council, Naccarato said that Mr. Pots, the Woodland Park-based company providing and servicing the privies, may provide volume data that could help the council deliver long-term solutions to managing human waste. The Chaffee Rec Council oversees implementation of the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan.

“Keeping the outdoors clean is an important objective,” Naccarato said. “We hope to protect natural resources such as the Arkansas River and to make sure we, as a community, can provide continued quality experiences for everyone.”

A conservation funding program addressing landscape challenges for the community, Chaffee Common Ground invests a 0.25 percent sales tax to strengthen forest health and reduce wildfire danger; conserve and support working agriculture and rural landscapes; and manage the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation. Visit for more information.