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Oh Be Joyful campground will charge for tent sites this summer

Renovation could end up reducing number of sites

By Mark Reaman

While a final renovation plan has not officially been approved, there are some changes coming to the Oh Be Joyful campground up the Slate River drainage near Crested Butte. The first noticeable change will be that campers will be charged to use the sites starting this summer.

According to Kristi Murphy of the Bureau of Land Management’s Gunnison Field Office, once the campground melts out, probably in late May or early June, there will be a $10 per night charge for sites that have both fire rings and picnic tables. For those sites with just fire rings the charge will be $5 per night.

The BLM has been working for a year on a plan to make the campground more manageable. It is a site that attracts thousands of campers every summer; during peak weekends, such as the Fourth of July, dispersed camping has been extensive and has had a major impact on the area.

A 2015 visitor study conducted from Memorial Day to Labor Day indicated that the Oh Be Joyful Recreation Area had visits from approximately 22,000 day visitors and 20,000 overnight visitors.

The BLM is finishing an Environmental Assessment (EA) that solicited a considerable amount of public comment, and the agency is tweaking the final plan to renovate the site. Murphy emphasized that the plan remains in draft form at the moment.

Gunnison Field Office manager Elijah Waters told the Gunnison County commissioners last week that the renovation will likely result in a decrease in the number of official sites allowed at Oh Be Joyful. While approximately 50 sites were located there last summer, Water said that figure could be reduced to about half, given the parameters of the location near the river and in the wetlands.

This summer, visitors would no longer be allowed to disperse camp at Oh Be Joyful Campground or River Flats Campground. However, visitors would be allowed to camp in designated campsites at Oh Be Joyful Campground and River Flats Walk-in Campsites.

Sites located across the Slate River crossing will eventually be eliminated.

Murphy said after the final adjustments are made to the plan, Waters will sign the final decision record for the proposed action some time this spring.

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