Fate of some Aspen-area forest campgrounds up in the air
The Pitkin County commissioners want the U.S. Forest Service to pursue public-private partnerships to keep recreation facilities open in the Aspen area rather than close some of the more financially draining sites.
The White River National Forest is undertaking an analysis of its recreation sites and later this year will unveil a proposal on what facilities must be scaled back or even closed. The exercise is necessary because the forest’s budget has decreased 45 percent since 2008, according to agency officials.
The forest must “get realistic about what we can afford to keep open and what we can maintain,” Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer told the commissioners.
It will be difficult for the agency to devote funds to sites that require significant capital improvements to continue operating, she said. Sites in Pitkin County that will receive a careful look are Avalanche Campground in the Crystal River Valley, Elk Wallow Campground in the Upper Fryingpan Valley and Dinkle Lake day use area, Schroyer said.
She stressed that the Forest Service will look at every alternative and isn’t automatically assuming sites will be closed. However, there is a lot of deferred maintenance to facilities. The recreation site analysis is ranking all the facilities on the forest so that priorities for funding can be set.
For example, Elk Wallow Campground is somewhat obscure, small and not heavily used. Justifying the $25,000 to $40,000 expense of providing a new bathroom will be difficult, Schroyer said. The concessionaire operating the campground would never recoup the investment through camp fees, she said.
The answer to the economic pinch isn’t as simple as raising camp fees, she said. Some campgrounds already charge $20 or $25 per site.
Commissioner Patti Clapper said the Forest Service should explore partnerships with other entities to keep campgrounds and other recreational facilities open and properly maintained.
Commissioner Rachel Richards said it would be helpful if the Forest Service study identified capital and operating expense shortfalls for various sites so potential partners can assess how to help. She also urged the agency to study how closing some sites would affect other sites.
Schroyer said the analysis will be unveiled for the public later this year and comments will be sought. “I’m hopeful some other ideas will come up as a result of that public outreach,” she said.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Business Monday briefs: Job-seeker service open throughout valley; renovated Limelight to reopen in November
Planning on getting back into the workforce or just switching up your career? The Glenwood Springs Workforce Center is offering mobile community office hours throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.