Go pitch a tent | AspenTimes.com

Go pitch a tent

Aspen, CO Colorado

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service is giving campers something to be happy about this fall – assuming the public jumps at a golden opportunity to spend some time in the woods.

The Forest Service and the company that manages most of the local campgrounds decided to keep them open longer than usual this fall. Usually, little gems like Weller, Lost Man and Lincoln Gulch campgrounds would have closed yesterday, the day after the busy Labor Day weekend. This year, they will stay open through the last weekend in September. Difficult Campground, the largest in the Aspen area, will also remain open a bit longer than usual, also through the last weekend of September.

The late summer closures were always a sore spot with us, and some other observers. September often brings some of the best weather to the high country. The sky is dazzlingly blue, the aspen leaves are golden, the grasses and brush are multiple shades of browns and oranges, and the peaks sometimes are dusted with clean white snow. It was absurd to drive past closed campgrounds in such splendid conditions.

The Forest Service and its vendor, Thousand Trails Management Services Inc., heard from the public that they wanted the campgrounds open longer into the fall. It was refreshing that they responded positively, especially during a recession.

The move isn’t going to make money for Thousand Trails or the Forest Service. Weekdays will likely be quiet at the campgrounds and activity will pick up on the weekends. Again, it’s refreshing that the Forest Service and its partner didn’t simply look at the campground issue solely from a bottom line perspective. Frankly, we don’t buy the line that government should run like a business when it comes to managing our magnificent public lands.

That said, we hope campers respond to the opportunity the next three weekends. If campers don’t take advantage of the extended opening, the earlier closure will go back in place.

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So, if the weather is acceptable, get out there and pitch a tent, build a fire and enjoy some smores at some of our classic campgrounds.