Opening of new designated campsites at Chubb Park in the Fourmile Recreation Area – by Ark Valley Voice Staff

As Recreation Grows, a Colorado State Land Board Pilot Program for Designated Public Campgrounds in Chaffee County

The Colorado State Land Board has designated 14 new campsites on its 3,400-acre parcel in the Fourmile Recreation Management Area in Chaffee County. The need for more sites became apparent when the surge in outdoor recreation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in damage to resources.

A campsite in the Chubb Park area of ​​the Fourmile Recreation Area displays site destruction and a dangerous outbreak. courtesy photo.

“We are dealing with a new form of recreation,” said Abe Medina, recreation manager for the State Land Board. He explains that campers used to pitch a few tents during the hunting season. “But now [they] arrive all summer long with large RVs, multiple vehicles, toy haulers, four-wheelers and side-by-sides.

As the Chaffee Recreation Adopters group began monitoring campsites across the county last year, they documented the mounting damage. Dozens of self-built, undesignated campsites and associated secondary roads destroyed acres of vegetation. The State Land Board noted that visitors made dangerous bonfires amid the grassy meadows, and they built racetracks and jumps for horse-riding games. “It’s a much more intensive use. It grew to the point that we had to do something,” Medina said.

The State Land Board is the second largest landowner in the state. The tracts of trust land commonly referred to as “school sections” total nearly three million acres, all administered by the State Land Board. These are located throughout the state, including 16,600 acres in Chaffee County. Sections were granted by the federal government at the time of statehood to produce revenue for public institutions.

Over $2 billion has been raised over the past 15 years, primarily to fund Colorado’s BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) program. Other public institutions, such as the state prison system, also benefit.

The State Land Board is responsible for the profitable management of land, which is usually achieved by leasing land to farmers and others. Ranchers use these grazing leases as summer pasture for the herds.

Medina said grazing in Chubb Park has become more difficult as the longtime tenant, a Chaffee County rancher, struggles to drive cows onto the property. Naturally, the cattle do not drink from the water tanks surrounded by campers. Some campers chased calves with all-terrain vehicles and damaged the farm irrigation system.

Crews have been working to remove illegal stone fire pits and are installing new metal fire grates at new Chubb Park campsites. Courtesy picture.

According to Medina, the solution for compatible, mixed-use land management at this site is to offer camping at 14 designated sites, each with a numbered site post and metal ring of fire. The posted signs convey the rules.

“We have considered closing the area to the campsite, but recognize that this will only push people into the surrounding land which is also under pressure, so we have decided to try to allow the campsite to continue with new rules and a new signage,” Medina said.

The Chubb Park trust parcel of land is surrounded by national forest in the 100,000-acre Fourmile Recreation Area, which includes Bureau of Land Management property near the towns of Buena Vista and Salida.

Medina worked with other land managers through a local process facilitated by Envision Chaffee County, to implement the All Lands Camping strategy outlined in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan. The goal is to provide high-quality, low-impact camping opportunities in response to residents’ concerns about the growth of camping without sufficient management, such as litter, human waste, declining quality of experience and human-caused wildfire potential from user-created campfire rings. .

The county plan endorses solutions, such as the State Land Board’s Chubb Park project, to maintain the quality of outdoor experiences, protect resources such as clean water and ensure the sustainability of the economy based on hobbies. New signs and campsites were paid for by the State Land Board, with support from the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau, the National Forest Foundation and a mini-grant from Chaffee Common Ground.

Camping remains free and first come, first served at Chubb Park this year. Medina said fees are likely in the future, and if the Chubb Park model is successful, the designated campsite could be used on additional school plots such as Waunita Reservoir near Tomichi Dome. “We want to be part of the regional conversation because many communities need help providing more sustainable camping,” he said.

The Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners is a constitutionally created agency that administers a $4 billion endowment in assets for the intergenerational benefit of Colorado school children and public institutions in grades K-12. The agency is the second largest landowner in Colorado and generates revenue on behalf of grantees by leasing nearly three million surface acres and four million mineral acres for farming, grazing, recreation, commercial real estate, rights of way, renewable energies, petroleum. , gas and mining. Unlike public land, trust land is not open to the public unless a property has been leased for public access.

The agency is entirely self-funded and receives no taxes. The agency has generated more than $2 billion for public schools over the past 15 years.

Feature Image: Chubb Park in the Fourmile Recreation Area has 14 new campsites scattered around. Photo courtesy of Envision Chaffee County.

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