Emerging into CB’s post-apocalyptic fall season
Well, that was rough. And by rough, I mean brutal. And by brutal, I mean this valley was hit hard in a way that we’ll talk about well into the future. Have you seen the road up to Lake Irwin? Have you seen the road past Lake Irwin? It seems that no ground was sacred when it came to “where can a fella camp”, and by “fella”, I mean families, compounds, and groups of toy-hauling fun-seekers looking for their spot in paradise. Speaking of paradise… have you been up to Paradise Divide lately? Yikes.
Our CB Conservation Corps crews are in the trenches and tasked with dealing with some of the worst of this summer’s impacts. Their strong resolve to care for their backyard stems from wanting to see it survive into the future the way they’ve known it for years. It’s tough to deal with negative impacts firsthand on a daily basis and not have it get to you. Even the best intentions give way to frustration, disappointment, and an “I’m sick of cleaning up after these people” mentality. Hug a CBCC crewmember… we need more of them. (Well, don’t actually hug the CBCC…air knuckles of course, or beer.)
We can’t deny the positives of more people getting outside. But, it’s a bitter pill to swallow after what we’ve witnessed here in the last two months. The population of Colorado is expected to add 3 million more residents by 2050. Will impacts on Colorado forests grow at the same rate as the population? When the evening sun reflects off the dust rising from Slate River Road to the ridges of Anthracite Mesa and Schuylkill, I can’t help but compare it to a smog-filled city. Not to mention the new addition of smoke that has recently been added to the equation!
All right, enough venting. As I continue searching for the silver lining, I’ve been digging deeper into the point made by our partners, the BLM and the USFS. This influx of visitors is the American People visiting their American Public Lands. Flocking to open spaces to sleep under the stars and enjoy the mountain sunshine is a very understandable response to a global pandemic that nobody saw coming. Even the recreation industry didn’t see it coming, or they would have increased their inventory of trailers, RVs, vans, UTVs, bikes, and portable toilets for sale. It’s tough to get quality recreation equipment right now because America bought it all up, and they are using it.
School is back in session and we’re entering the time of the “weekend warrior” which will give us a break from the day to day heavy impacts. The CBCC has been all over the Seven Kingdoms (McCombs – 2017) this summer, and while human waste and toilet paper seemed to be less of an issue in the early summer, it has since ballooned in line with camping numbers. CBCC crews have decommissioned 25 illegal campsites that have popped up, cleared out 49 fire rings, and cleaned over 255 sites to date. We’re up to 665.7 lbs of trash removed and 869 contacts with users.
We’re continuing our work with the USFS, NFF, and STOR Committee to provide opportunities for people to “do the right thing”, including moving away from dispersed camping and toward designated camping spots. We’ve also been working on a collaborative project with the CB Land Trust, BLM, and Dept. of Natural Resources to provide a safe and sustainable path from Gunsight Bridge to Oh Be Joyful campground. The Coal Train Trail (coming soon!) will connect two well-used and highly impacted areas to decrease vehicle traffic, and help move riders, hikers, runners, and other users OFF the road!
We are grassroots, down home, backyard conservation and stewardship. We care deeply for this place and are dedicated to making these public lands and trails better than they are sometimes treated by others. We are, after all, guests on the land ourselves, and have a responsibility to steward what we cherish. Our resolve has never been better, but there is still mad work to be done. We have a clear focus and strong partnerships, and will do as much as we can with the resources we have. We continue to rely on you – our eyes, ears, and support on the ground. Let’s all lend a hand, stand a post, walk the mire! All of us can make a difference. We got this!
Photos below by Robby Lloyd, Lucid Images