Carbondale in the RV park business – for now |

Carbondale in the RV park business – for now

Jury Jerome/Post IndependentThe Mount Sopris RV Park, near the intersections of Highways 82 and 133 in Carbondale, is back in business as a town-owned campground. It's being pared down to about 20 sites.

CARBONDALE – An established RV park and campground that had evolved into a “man camp” for year-round residents under its previous owner has found new life as a vacation stop-over for Carbondale-area visitors.

Now owned by the town of Carbondale, the former Mount Sopris RV Park is again offering spaces for recreational vehicle hook-ups and tent campers for up to two weeks at a time.

The park officially opened for the summer season over Memorial Day weekend, and is being managed by the town government.

“Right now, we do have a two-week maximum stay,” Carbondale Public Works Director Larry Ballenger said. “We did get permission from the [town] board to explore a monthly rate for those who are visiting the area and want to stay longer. But it won’t be a man camp again.”

The town of Carbondale acquired the 7.5-acre riverfront property near the intersection of Highways 82 and 133 at the end of last year to be incorporated as part of the town’s long-planned Gateway River Park project.

Formerly owned by Stan and Valerie Koziel, the land was purchased for $2.5 million through a funding partnership between the town, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Garfield County.

The site includes almost 1,300 feet of shoreline along the Roaring Fork River, as well as a popular boat launch that has historically been used as an access for public fishing, rafting and kayaking.

Although the campground is again open to the public, the town is taking a soft approach to marketing the facility until a range of improvements can be made. RV sites are going for $35 per night, including water, sewer and electricity. Tent sites are $20 per night.

“It’s pretty much just word of mouth right now, but we still get several phone calls a day,” Ballenger said. “Once we get all the facilities up and running, we plan to begin advertising nationally and are working to develop a website.”

What used to be 42 total camp sites is also being pared down to around 20 to make it a more desirable camping area.

“We want people to have a more enjoyable experience, where they can have a picnic and fire ring, and not be on top of each other,” Ballenger said.

Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel was also successful in obtaining another $30,000 GOCO grant to prepare a master plan for the new river park site.

“We don’t want to put too much money and effort into the site until we can get it master planned,” Ballenger said.

The lower portion of the site where the boat launch is located is to be maintained as a public river access, according to the Division of Wildlife’s portion of the funding agreement. However, the town is free to develop the campground area as it sees fit.

A seasonal worker with the Carbondale Parks Department is currently maintaining the RV park and making sure any campers have paid up using the self-pay honor system. In future years, if the campground remains, management duties may contracted out to a vendor.

“When we do start advertising, it’s going to become a full-time job for someone to oversee the park,” Ballenger said.

A house that also sits on the property is being fixed up so it can eventually be rented out to a tenant, he said.

The campground property is part of a larger area encompassing both sides of the Roaring Fork River that the town now owns, which is envisioned for riverfront park development.

Carbondale’s 2003 gateway river park feasibility study identified a variety of recreational amenities in the area, including trails, a pedestrian bridge crossing the river, educational and interpretive signs, parking, whitewater park features, and improved access to the nearby Red Hill Recreation Area.

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