New program brings toilets to trailheads
By Aimee Eaton
Spring is here, and the Upper Valley is beginning to gear up for another season of heavy use on the area’s public lands.
It’s no secret that over the course of the last several summers the use of Crested Butte’s backcountry has skyrocketed. With that increase came challenges ranging from trail erosion and parking problems to human conflict and fire danger. However, one of the most disturbing and potentially dangerous issues to face the area has been the severe uptick of human waste being deposited on the open ground.
“With the explosion of recreational use on the forest, there’s bound to be more human waste on the landscape,” said Ashley Hom, a hydrologist with the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. “It’s our duty as public land managers to manage the human waste and that means finding partners to help us care for the land we all love so much.”
While always unsightly, smelly and just gross, untreated and improperly disposed human waste can contaminate local water sources, can act as a habitat for a host of diseases and parasites, and can endanger wildlife.
This summer, Hom is leading a program to mitigate the presence of human waste in some of the Upper Valley’s most hard-used areas. The effort itself is not complicated—in partnership with area organizations, individuals and businesses, she’s bringing toilets to trailheads.
“So far we have four locations,” said Hom, adding that each location may have multiple porta-potties with each toilet sponsored by a different entity.
“Each sponsor will have a banner on the restroom, and sponsors can choose to put out a donation tube. Last year Coal Creek Watershed Coalition put out a tube at their sponsored porta-potty in the Slate River corridor (Musician’s camp, north of Oh-Be-Joyful campground by two miles), and they collected $330 from the public! Thank you, public!”
For the 2018 summer, Hom said the Forest Service plans to install six toilets: two toilets at the Musician’s Camp on the Slate River, two to three toilets up Cement Creek, and one more along Brush Creek.
According to Ashley UpChurch, executive director for the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, those six toilets are nearly funded, and a seventh toilet is in the works. Partners and funders include the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition, the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, Black Tie Ski Rentals, Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven, and Wildflour Sweets.
“Three of the toilets are being co-sponsored by the chamber and member businesses, and I am still looking for sponsorships to cover about half the cost of one of our three toilets,” said UpChurch. “Nine member businesses are co-sponsoring the toilets the chamber has confirmed for the summer and three more groups have gone directly to the Forest Service to sponsor or co-sponsor toilets this summer.”
Currently there is only one company that provides porta-potties to the Crested Butte backcountry and the cost of a rental is about $1,000 from Memorial Day to Labor Day. UpChurch said the chamber is working with its members to fully sponsor, partially sponsor or co-sponsor toilets. The Forest Service and Hom can also take donations directly.
“The chamber has experienced the increasingly busy summers through our visitor centers,” said UpChurch. “The Crested Butte Visitor Center consistently sees more than 20,000 individuals between June and September every year; in fact, we saw more than 27,000 individuals come through the Crested Butte Visitor Center during the summer of 2015. The vast majority of these visitors are interested in outdoor recreation in our backcountry, so we understand the need to help protect our valuable outdoor resources. Our towns depend on tourism, and we were thrilled when Ashley at the Forest Service came up with this program to help create sustainable tourism.”
Hom added that ultimately the goal is to place permanent restroom facilities in the high-use areas, and a permanent toilet and parking area will be built this year at the Slate River Musicians Camp. Next summer the goal is to put a permanent restroom at the Maroon Bells trailhead.
“That being said, permanent toilets cost money to pump and clean, so we, the Forest Service, are partnering with CBMBA, CCWC, and HCCA to help maintain the toilet into the future,” said Hom. “For every permanent toilet we install, we are looking for new partners to help maintain those facilities. The Forest Service budget is maxed out and we can’t build and maintain any new restrooms without the help of our partners and the momentum and support of the community.”
For more information, or to sponsor a toilet, contact Ashley UpChurch at the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, or Ashley Hom at the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests district office.