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To the Editor,

It has been evident the past several years that Chaffee County has been experiencing explosive growth in visitor days to the Upper Arkansas Valley alongside a growing unrest and concern for increasing adverse environmental impacts and the diminishing quality of recreation experience.

As a business owner and backcountry outfitter for 38 years, we’ve seen first-hand the increase in use and the resulting impacts. And, out of concern we committed to do something about that. We took a hard look at our own personal and organizational use impacts and asked ourselves how we could better steward our time in the backcountry. Which resulted in very strategic and proactive efforts to address and mitigate the increasing resource impacts in the backcountry. Specifically, we worked in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to eliminate unsightly fire rings, trash, and hardened campsites.

On the broader scale Envision Chaffee County has provided the platform for public citizens to have a stakeholder seat at the table. A venue where everyone who choose to participate had the opportunity to voice their concerns, offer insights, and mobilize tremendous volunteer efforts in protecting our incredible resources and recreation opportunities. Working tirelessly to protect the natural resources that make this valley so distinctive and unique. In part, these efforts have resulted in the development of the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan with on the ground results – already! A plan which incorporated many of the shared values of our broad community of users.

At the end of the day the results will bear witness to our efforts. Without delay implementing adaptive and thoughtful strategies combined with a willingness to step out of our comfort zones, make sacrifices, and set the bar high are key to the way forward to achieve something beyond ordinary in protecting our opportunity to recreate and have the types of experiences we all value so highly.

There has been an extraordinary display of community support, collaboration, and thoughtful and intense discussion. It couldn’t happen without the critical leadership decisions and support within the agencies tasked with managing the federal and state decision making processes at these critical moments. Positive movement can’t happen without courageous, thoughtful, and visionary leadership for the future. Leadership that results in the sustainable protection of both the resources and access opportunity in this valley for the benefit of the people who live here and for those who travel here to enjoy the beauty and diverse recreation that define this valley.

How timely for Dan Prenzlow (Director Parks and Wildlife) as an agency leader to express his ongoing support for the process and development of the county recreation plan. Thank You! This has been consistent with our other agency and community leadership support. I remain hopeful that all user groups will continue to work together thoughtfully and realistically to achieve lasting results. These results will be evident for all to see and experience as we pass on our legacy to the next generation of users.

Chuck Cichowitz