Rec Plan goals to maintain outside ‘clear, enjoyable and wild’ | Sports activities & Open air

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The Chaffee Recreation Council is providing a draft of the Chaffee Recreation Plan for community feedback. The goals of the plan are to protect natural resources, preserve exceptional outdoor experiences, and maintain the economic benefits of recreational tourism.

Comprehensive initiatives outlined below are helping to manage the effects of increasing outdoor usage to keep it clean, make it fun, keep it wild, and bring it into the future.

The five-year plan proposes nine goals and more than two dozen programs and projects. The new infrastructure, as well as ongoing management and maintenance, is estimated to cost an estimated $ 20 million.

Go to envisionchaffeecounty.org and click the orange banner at the top of the home page to provide feedback on the initiatives and view a copy of the draft plan.

The Keep it Clean initiatives include high-quality, gentle camping facilities and the provision of the right infrastructure such as toilets in all countries in Chaffee County.

“The agencies are taking a collaborative approach to figuring out how we’ll manage camping in each country when we see this much growth,” said Ben Lara, US Forest Service recreation worker, during an online public session hosted by Envision Chaffee County was hosted on May 25.

Lara said that both the Bureau of Land Management and the Salida Ranger District are initiating federal processes considering new management solutions, such as designating locations in popular zones, closing some areas, and developing more chargeable campsites with parking, garbage disposal and Toilets. Agency decisions are expected in 2022.

The draft plan provides for new programs to clean up overused campsites and slow site growth to 3 percent per year. “Public lands have a level of capacity, and to get the experience we need to factor that capacity,” said Jim Pitts, Salida district ranger, speaking to the Buena Vista Board of Trustees on May 25th.

The plan identifies infrastructure projects (see graphic) such as new and updated toilets in the cities and front country as well as:

• Capacity expansion at the Monarch Park Campground

• With scattered campsites in Chubb Park and Cochetopa Creek

• Realignment of a Colorado Trail segment on South Fooses Creek in the wetland

• Adding trail connectors to the Arkansas Hills Trail System

• Expanded parking lot at the Grizzly Creek motorized trailhead

• Adding signage and structures to support seasonal closings to protect wildlife

The plan establishes Community Concentration Zones (see map) to concentrate new opportunities for recreational development such as path connections in and around cities.

Keep it Fun initiatives are designed to promote better outdoor ethics through the Chaffee Rec Rangers, Rec Adopters, and Chaffee Front Fire Protection programs. Managed by the Salida Ranger District, the rangers provide education, maintenance, cleanup and enforcement by hiring seasonal staff to cover the busiest public areas in Chaffee County. The Rangers allow volunteers to help through the Chaffee Rec Adopters who sign up to monitor and manage websites.

Fire safety is achieved through patrols from the district fire brigade, who focus on ensuring safe and legal campfires on the district roads popular with weekend campers.

Chaffee County’s Visitor Bureau is already informing visitors how to plan and act responsibly outdoors on their new Adventure by Nature social media campaign, funded by the county’s lodging tax.

For additional enforcement, the US Forest Service is hiring a Salida-based law enforcement officer this summer.

The third Keep it Wild initiative addresses the county’s population decline in 65 percent of the major wildlife species identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other local biologists.

The plan maps calving areas, wintering areas and other important habitats to inform forest improvement projects and new voluntary seasonal closings that can give wildlife a break.

Suggested solutions for agricultural operators suffering damage from recreational use include converting gates, which are often left open by road users, into cattle guards and setting up campsites to preserve grassy areas for grazing.

To raise the estimated $ 20 million to implement the plan, new programs are being created aggregated user donations, grants, and additional funding from local, state, and federal sources.

The Chaffee Rec Plan is a result of the Envision Chaffee County’s 2017 planning initiative that outlines four visions for the community to be achieved in the future, including healthy forests, bodies of water and wildlife in balance with outdoor recreation.

Kim Marquis is the project and outreach coordinator for Envision Chaffee County.

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