Like it or not, new Lost Man loo was necessary, says USFS, Pass group

Increasing number of visitors comes with byproducts for national forest

Relief is on the way for visitors at the Upper Lost Man Trailhead on Independence Pass.

A permanent toilet will be installed Tuesday. It was supposed to be completed this week for the busy Fourth of July weekend, but a truck hauling the toilet from Texas broke down, according to Karin Teague, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation.

The nonprofit foundation teamed with the U.S. Forest Service and Aspen Skiing Co. employees’ Environment Foundation to fund the $36,000 needed to fabricate and install the single-seat toilet.

While typically a new toilet might not be newsworthy, the loo at that location is indicative of the greater pressure that the Independence Pass corridor is facing. That was exacerbated last summer when people flocked to mountain resorts and the outdoors while the COVID-19 pandemic restricted gatherings and indoor activities.

“The Forest Service and Independence Pass Foundation had a lot of ah-ha moments last summer,” Teague said.

The need for the Upper Lost Man toilet was among them. It was clear that too many people either weren’t aware of proper waste burial or didn’t care, she said. Human waste and toilet paper were “everywhere we looked.”

That spells trouble because of the sensitive high-elevation tundra and the proximity of the trailhead to the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River. Improper burial of waste can lead to environmental degradation.

“It wasn’t just an aesthetic issue,” Teague said.

The toilet will be installed on the western side of the informal parking area at the big switchback at Upper Lost Man. A hole has been dug next to the hillside.

The partners in the project didn’t make the decision lightly. The goal is to keep the Pass corridor as pristine as possible. Teague said the new toilet will be an effective way to protect the environment.

“Putting a toilet near the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River gives one pause. (But) they’re pretty bomber,” Teague said in reference to this particular type of toilet.

At the Lower Lost Man Trailhead, people in the know who have to go can cross the highway to use toilets at the Lost Man Campground.