Bluebird days, glacier lilies, lupine, sunshine until nearly 8:30pm…it’s a joyous time in Crested Butte. It’s also the calm before the storm, and while recent afternoon rainfall has brought rainbows and bursts of flowers, it hasn’t slowed down the bursts of visitors marking the arrival of the busy season.
Although nothing like the start of last year’s COVID backcountry onslaught, we are starting to see fires left unattended, disregard for posted regulations, camping in sensitive riparian habitat, and of course, the relegated to nature makeshift backcountry toilets. These are left behind by someone willing to take the time to make an actual toilet for their personal use in the woods, but lazy and careless enough to just drive away from. We pulled 3 of them from the Spring Creek drainage last week.
CBMBA’s Conservation Corps (CBCC) turns five this summer, and has been hard at work since May. Nick Catmur is leading the CBCC crews as the CBMBA Operations Manager, and we welcome back Alex, Grant, Seve, Jake, and Gus, along with newcomers Michael and Hunter. We are honored that our experienced and returning crews mean not just professional trail care and stewardship, but a true desire to make a lasting difference and a better future for our backyard. The CBCC has already worked on 20.5 miles of trail, cleared 122 trees from roads and trails, collected 321.5 pounds of trash, connected with 258 people, picked up 10 human poops (disgusting) and 14 dog poops (please don’t leave the plastic bag), and cleaned 256 campsites. CBCC crews truly are the heroes of our public lands.
So far, our crews have given trail love to Strand Hill, Gunsight Connector (Lando), the entire Caves Trail, and drainage work and surface hardening on the Green Lake Trail. We have continued to work on the Middle Cement Trail, put tread back into Death Pass, completed drainage and decommissioning work on the Scarp Ridge Trail, and made improvements to Deer Creek. We work on all trails for all uses to create better experiences and improved backyard sustainability. We are also working alongside the USFS Gunnison Ranger District and the Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation (STOR) Corps to have a presence in the Slate River and Washington Gulch corridors during the busiest times of the summer. This will help us reach people arriving when campsites are near critical mass, while also gathering data and observations about forest visitation.
The CBCC is well ahead of schedule in partnering with the USFS Gunnison Ranger District to implement the new designated camping plan in the six drainages surrounding our Towns. In 2020, the Washington Gulch and Slate River drainages were completed, and Brush Creek and Cement Creek are now nearing completion as well. One crew member is working full time on implementing the designated camping, and we’ll be moving on to the Kebler and Gothic drainages next. By the year’s end, all six drainages will be complete with numbered campsites, kiosks and informational road signs, fire pits and parking spots, and a directive to camp in designated sites only.
The designated campsites have proven successful thus far, but as the season ramps up we are starting to see the typical negative impacts that come with increased numbers and limited space. For now the focus is on education and outreach, and helping visitors and guests understand how to be better stewards of the lands. In the future, this camping management plan may provide the first steps towards a fee or reservation-based camping system.
Our efforts are propelled by the continued support of the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and the Gunnison County Stewardship Fund (GCSF). The Towns of Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte continue to stand behind and support CBCC efforts, along with the Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP), 1% for Open Space, local businesses, and private donations from our community and beyond. We are grateful for the support and efforts of the Gunnison County Met Rec District, and we couldn’t do any of the aforementioned without the partnership, trust, and support of the USFS/GRD, the CB Land Trust, and the Bureau of Land Management.
As we transition to this new form of backcountry camping management, and as we continue to see more and more people visit our national forests and open spaces, often first timers, we must remember that we all can partake in this effort to help educate and reach these visitors to help instill a stewardship ethic. A friendly smile and a warm greeting can often break the ice, and often times we find that misguided behavior is born of naïveté. Sure, we can’t fix a blatant disregard for common sense shown by a few, but the more of us that reach out to our fellow users about Leave No Trace principles, the better we can preserve what we all came here for in the first place… lasting memories in the best backyard in the world.