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Parking at winter trailheads hitting a fever-pitch

County considering ways to deal, including a dedicated parking manager

By Cayla Vidmar

Busy trailheads are no longer just a symptom of summertime crowds, according to deputy county manager Marlene Crosby, who told the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners recently about the difficulties her staff is having with parking at winter trailheads.

“The parking at the trailhead at Slate this weekend was clear down around Nicholson Lake. Washington Gulch is getting busier, Brush Creek is hard to tell because it’s bigger and can accommodate that use,” Crosby said. “Kebler is getting nailed this year,” she concluded.

Crosby discussed parking issues in the Kebler Pass Road parking area, including people using bigger trailers and toy-haulers, people leaving snowmobiles overnight, and groups of people treating Crosby and her staff poorly.

“I can tell you, a majority of people there understand what we’re trying to do and have worked with us, but there are those in that community that are brutal and vicious. They personally attack me and my staff and I’m about over it,” Crosby said. She reported that her staff would be looking at tighter management at the Kebler trailhead specifically.

According to a county press release, the Gunnison County Public Works Department began permitting “over-the-snow vehicles” for residential commuting from trailheads. “We only give two permits per property,” said Crosby, “so if there are four or five people living in a house, who work different shifts, and if you give a permit to every person who wants to park there, you won’t solve the issue.”

Crosby says an estimated 25 to 40 snowmobiles are left at the Kebler Pass trailhead for storage overnight, which she says the U.S. Forest Service does not allow unless operators have a permit. Crosby stated the Public Works Department is trying to get these unpermitted snowmobiles cleaned up to see if it will ease congestion.

“I think it’s a matter of accommodating the number of users, the types of users and the types of equipment coming in. We’ve gone from having two-snowmobile trailers to big toy-haulers,” Crosby said. Gunnison County operations manager Sparky Casebolt said, “It’s gotten to the point where if you don’t have a specific parking manager back there, [the trailhead] doesn’t accommodate all the traffic.”

County commissioners and Crosby discussed the use issue, including early-morning skiers who park at the Kebler trailhead in locations where snowmobile trailers should be parking. Board chair Jonathan Houck said, “If you get a couple people who aren’t being thoughtful when they park, it turns into a domino effect of bad parking.”

Crosby said that in the White River National Forest, Summit County, Pitkin County and Eagle County contribute financially to pay a person hired by the Forest Service who conducts parking management at trailheads. “I think this may be the trailhead [Kebler Pass] we have to explore doing that,” Crosby said.

Commissioner Roland Mason suggested that Crosby reach out to user groups, such as G.O.A.T.S (Gunnison Valley OHV Alliance of Trailriders), or Gunnison County Sno Trackers about self-regulating. “Those people are up there every day, and maybe you can get people that use the trails day to day to be more engaged,” said Mason.

Mason also suggested that perhaps “someone from Dave [Och’s] group [Crested Butte Conservation Corps] can be funded and they can be out there day to day.”

“It would behoove us to contribute some [money] as opposed to the amount of labor hours we invest in trying to get the word out,” concluded Crosby.

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