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National forest recreation areas in jeopardy of closure
The Daily Sentinel ^ | September 12, 2006 | BOBBY MAGILL

Posted on 09/13/2006 8:22:06 AM PDT by george76

A massive closure of local national forest recreation areas and campgrounds may be imminent because of equally massive budget cuts.

In the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, a shrinking recreation facility maintenance budget is creating a dire situation, potentially forcing the permanent closure of 49 of the GMUG’s 138 recreation areas, said forest public service staff officer Corey Wong.

With a $2.7 million recreation facility maintenance backlog, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests have many old, dilapidated facilities. Water systems in some campgrounds have been removed because they don’t meet standards.

“Most of our facilities were built back in the ’50s, and we’ve been trying the best we can to maintain those,” GMUG Forest Supervisor Charlie Richmond said. “They’re wearing out; that’s why you have that large of a maintenance backlog.”

He called the overall condition of the GMUG’s recreation facilities “sort of spotty.”

On Grand Mesa, he said, facilities are generally in good condition and are well-used. The opposite is true on the Uncompahgre Plateau, where campground facilities are remote, little-used and poorly maintained.

There’s little money to fix them. The GMUG forests had $711,000 in its budget for operation and maintenance of recreation sites for the 2004 fiscal year.

The budget plummeted to $221,000 in 2006, and that figure is expected to drop to $155,000 for 2007.

Some campgrounds, however, are mostly maintained by the concessionaires who run them and charge campers to pitch tents there.

To figure out where facilities maintenance cuts need to be made and which campgrounds to close, forest planners are in the midst of a recreation site facilities master planning process in which the public can participate during a 60-day comment period.

A date has not been set for when the public comment process will begin, but Wong said it could start in January.

Some sites could be changed from campgrounds to dispersed camping, GMUG spokeswoman Lee Ann Loupe said.

“The public needs to be more proponents of recreation,” Richmond said. “It all starts with the political process. Our money comes from Congress. The American people need to use that process to help us in the future.”

There are many factors that play into determining how well campgrounds and recreation areas are maintained, but generally, the more use a site gets, the more money goes into maintaining it.

Recreation sites on the Uncompahgre Plateau are lightly used, but it’s not for lack of people.

“Campgrounds will be empty, but there will be people all over the plateau,” Richmond said.

That’s because many forest users’ recreation habits are changing as people take their RVs into the woods and camp outside the confines of a campground, he said.

Two remote Uncompahgre Plateau campgrounds, Columbine and Iron Springs, were slated to be decommissioned by July 4.

But Richmond said public feedback he received encouraged him to stay his decision.

“I just told people (who were removing facilities in the campgrounds) to hold off until we had time to visit with the groups and couple of counties interested in a couple of those sites,” he said.

If other ways are found to keep those campgrounds open, he said, “We’ll do that.”

Currently, both sites are open for free camping, but there is no running water at Columbine. The water system there was removed because it did not meet water quality standards.

There’s a slightly different scenario occurring on the White River National Forest, where six campgrounds and one picnic area are being considered for closure. No decision has been made, White River Program Manager Rich Doak said.

Similar to the GMUG forests, White River officials consider how well a site is used, how much it costs to maintain and the condition of its facilities before deciding whether to keep it open, remove some facilities or decommission it.

Doak said the White River National Forest has generally ignored remote, difficult-to-manage campgrounds and recreation sites.

“We’ve tried to invest money in our nicer facilities” or those that serve special needs, he said.

The White River National Forest has a guideline in its forest management plan stipulating that if any developed recreation site has less than 20 percent occupancy during the height of the recreation season, it should be considered for closure.

So far, six campgrounds have qualified: Davis Spring, Supply Basin, Blodgett, Portal, Tigiwon and North Fork, which is near Meeker.

On the GMUG forests, eight campgrounds were posted as closed, some erroneously, Loupe said.

On Grand Mesa, Cobbett Lake, Kiser Creek and Little Bear campgrounds are closed because of a tree blowdown.

On the Gunnison National Forest, campgrounds including Spring Creek Pass, Comanche and Gold Creek were posted as closed. They are now open for camping, but have no water.

TOPICS: Agriculture; Business/Economy; Miscellaneous; Outdoors; Science; Society; Sports; Travel
KEYWORDS: colorado; forest; gmug; gmugforest; grandmesa; gunnison; national; nationalforest; recreation; uncompahgre; whiteriver

1 posted on 09/13/2006 8:22:07 AM PDT by george76
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To: george76
Creating a huge bureaucracy to manage the taxpayers' forest was a huge mistake in the first place.
That things have deteriorated, is no surprise.

Now the doofuses have the gall to threaten to "close" these areas to get back at the taxpayer.
What are these geniuses gonna do? Police the areas on their own time for free to keep the owners out?

Remember, these are the same idiots who plant "endangered species" hairs in the forests to keep people out...
It's their forests, now, you know.

2 posted on 09/13/2006 8:36:00 AM PDT by Publius6961 (MSM: Israelis are killed by rockets; Lebanese are killed by Israelis.)
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To: Publius6961; Carry_Okie; SierraWasp

This is part of their roadless plan.

They frame the title as no new roads, but the documents say close the existing roads, trails, and ways.

They are closed to jeeps and bikes, plus closed to horses and hikers.

3 posted on 09/13/2006 9:10:20 AM PDT by george76 (Ward Churchill : Fake Indian, Fake Scholarship, and Fake Art)
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