Never saw that coming. 4th of July weekend was as civil as could been have expected – in the backyard that is. The roads weren’t that dusty, the camping wasn’t ‘full’. It was dreamy out there. The next week(end)…oh my, did things change.
What started out so lovely, so manageable, so seemingly in line with the previous two years, turned into a quagmire not unlike that of the COVID 2020 summer, three years ago.
2021 and 2022 were a breath of fresh air, with designated camping in place and a collective desire throughout the community to incorporate messaging around having a ‘B’ plan. A ‘B’ plan, as in – if you were coming here on a Friday night looking for a sweet camp spot, you should have a backup plan when you find them all full. This year – there were no ‘B’ plans. It was more an ‘entitlement plan’.
What happened this year – who knows? But that weekend after the 4th of July turned into an entitled free-for-all out there with nowhere near enough enforcement to manage the multitudes of madness. They came in numbers, and they all wanted camp spots. When they didn’t find one, they made their own. The upward (positive) trend of 2021/2022 was out the door, as campers and users made new roads, new camp spots, and new fire rings, with a larger than normal number of ‘unattended’ fires. What the….!!!!!??? As a reminder…. In July 2022, the official ‘forest order’ restricting camping in the six drainages surrounding CB to designated sites and fires to designated fire rings, was implemented.
For some users, the feng shui of the designated site wasn’t cutting it. So, they ripped out the fire rings and relocated them to their desired site placement. These moved rings are not getting re-installed, as you can imagine. Some went further and took the fire rings home with them! Some pulled site posts, burned the barrier ‘worm fencing’ for firewood, and left the perimeter of their site filled with TP and worse. CBCC crews installed 208 fire-rings in 2020/2021 with an auger and loads of muscle power. We continue to install fire rings, move boulders, install worm fencing, ‘designate’ the campsites and parking, and fix/replace signs. Along with our partners, the Gunnison Ranger District, we’ll continue to monitor, manage, and keep up the designated camping. It works when it’s not abused and overrun.
The last two years (2021/22) saw a decline in the ‘negative’ data we collect. This was a good trend! Things seemed to be working, and the messaging seemed to be getting through. This year, it’s back up. Those are the numbers/data around the stuff we don’t want to see go back up. Human waste, toilet paper, trash, unattended fires, illegal fire rings, illegal camp sites – all up. In 2022, we saw the lowest number of human poop ever removed in our seven seasons of collecting data – 37. So far, we’re at 50 this year, with an equal number of dog waste bags. That’s a disturbing comparison. We decommissioned 52 illegal fire rings in 2022. So far in 2023, we’re at 80. The ugly number – a toss-up with the disgust of foul human waste finds – is the trash! Our average number each season is 1,138 pounds. In 2021 it was 913 pounds, and in 2022, 1,264 pounds. This year we’re at 1,516.2 pounds. But hey, we’ve only pulled one backcountry toilet this year; no boats, no recliners, and no backcountry hot tubs! So we’ve got that going, which is nice. We are going to help remove an abandoned Land Rover on Thursday, but we’ll have to give H and H Towing the weight credits on that one.
At the same time, while the negative indicators are up, so are the positive indicators. While navigating the resource impacts and helping the Forest Service and other partners better manage the back yard, CBCC crews have been doing yeoman’s work on the trails and on the ground. 586 designated campsites and 39.6 miles of trail have been maintained. 62 ‘armoring’ projects have been completed for a total of 1,212 feet of hardened trail surface. 215 trees have been removed from trails and access, and 625 feet of non-system or braided trails have been decommissioned. Crews have connected with 561 people and have seen or been seen by thousands of users.
In between the ‘stewardship’ days on the forest and open spaces, our benevolent trail care crews have been ever so busy making for sustainable trails and delightful recreation experiences. Amongst other trails that require regular attention, CBCC crews have done major work on 403, 401, Death Pass, Teo Ridge, Middle Cement/Fenceline, 405/D-Top, Crystal Peak, and the good Doctor.
Of recent, and with the additional work force power of over 100 CBMBA volunteers at our Annual Overnight Work Weekend, CBCC crews have worked alongside the Budd Family at Ambush Ranch to realize the new Budd Connection. Ultimately, this trail will connect Strand Bonus and ‘Tent City’. The Budds are so generous to invite us onto their private property for this much needed connector, and just ask that folks keep an eye out for, and yield to horses. Please stay on the trail, use at your own risk, and look ahead for our fine equine friends and users. Speaking of the Budd Connection and Ambush Ranch – thanks to ALL who came out on August 19th to celebrate CBMBA’s 40th birthday with the WAILERS! What a special evening. Jah bless the Budds!
40 years! The oldest mountain bike club in the world, created on a deck on Teocalli Avenue in 1983 to advocate for legitimate use and to build and maintain trails for the nascent sport in the Gunnison Valley. Some of those characters were there to celebrate with us, and we can’t ever thank the good volunteers, board members, and hard-core community members enough who have truly created this trail network on their very backs! This community comes together like no other when it comes to trails, and we’re grateful to grow alongside this community, this mountain bike mecca, as an organization whose mission is to build, maintain, and advocate for sustainable trails and to steward the landscape of Crested Butte and beyond. That includes our beloved CBCC, now in our seventh season and the partnerships and collaborations we cherish with so many partners – locally, regionally, and internationally.
We have one more trail workday in the works. Join us September 6th for our final ‘Wednesday Workday’ of the season. On Sunday, September 17th, join us for a ‘Fall Ride and Volunteer Appreciation Party’. We have stellar prizes for our good volunteers, awards for our ‘Keepers of the Trail’, and another reason to ride bikes on these beloved trails and celebrate a successful season.
We love observations out there, and always welcome comments, suggestions, and ideas. Our board meetings are always open to the public, the third Thursday of each month (10 meetings a year). We invite any and all to come out and play in the dirt with us or join us at the conference table. You can find more info and a calendar on our website (cbmba.org), follow us on the social interwebsmediagoogles, or email email@example.com.