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Mt. Crested Butte considering Mountain Manners funding

Do plastic water bottles Leave No Trace?

By Mark Reaman

The Wildflower Festival’s Sue Wallace approached the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council at the June 6 meeting for a $7,000 donation to help fund the Mountain Manners and Peak Protectors programs. The two initiatives would help mitigate and manage backcountry issues this summer.

“I have to admit that after I saw the town give a generous [$20,000] contribution to the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association Conservation Corp I thought it was so cool,” Wallace said. “Mountain Manners came out of the One Valley Prosperity Project process and we all see that we need to pay attention to this awesome place. We need to show a presence on the trails and help educate visitors on how to treat the backcountry. I am passionate about this.”

Wallace said the programs have received numerous contributions to help reach its $40,000 goal to fund the program. She told the council she is about $15,000 short at the moment. 1% for Open Space donated $15,000. The Tourism Association and Western State Colorado University have made contributions. Wallace is planning on approaching the town of Crested Butte and the Met Rec district. She said even the Forest Service gave some money to the programs. “It is resonating hugely,” she said. “It is a grassroots movement to have a conversation about the backcountry.”

Wallace said while the Conservation Corps was focused on trail maintenance, the Peak Protectors and Mountain Manners volunteers would be directly engaging backcountry users. “We want to build a rapport with people and impart a friendly message. We hope to kill them with kindness and teach them Leave No Trace standards. The overall hope is to shift awareness with people in the backcountry.”

Wallace said so far about 30 volunteers have been trained. They will wear uniforms and give out “swag” such as sunscreen and water to break the ice with visitors.

“I don’t mind helping to fund the program but I have a bit of a concern that you are handing out water in plastic bottles when you are talking about Leave No Trace,” said mayor Todd Barnes. “Bottled water drives me nuts.’

“It is meant to be an ice breaker and open a conversation,” explained Wallace.

“I see a lot of overlap between your programs and the Conservation Corps,” noted councilman Ken Lodovico. “A lot of the things you are pitching I thought we covered with the donation to Dave [Ochs] and the Corps. He also talked about his teams imparting education.”

“I think we are complementary to one another,” Wallace said.

“It is a worthwhile cause and we are looking at an increase in sales tax,” said councilman Bill Thompson. “It feels like the spigot is open.”

“Our sales tax [revenue] is over budget—so far,” confirmed town manger Joe Fitzpatrick.

“It is a wonderful program but the question for us is where does the request fit in,” said councilman David O’Reilly. “We have had town projects we put on hold in the lean times and I get nervous about that.”

“It seems the marketing is working. The people are coming here,” said Wallace. “We need to shore up the attraction. It seems the level of impact is so much more noticeable in the last couple of years.”

The council made no decision but said it would reconsider the request at the June 20 meeting. They wanted more detailed budget information on the operations expenditures.

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