Better sites, better parking, wetland improvements, new footbridge coming
By Mark Reaman
Work on the Oh Be Joyful Campground up the Slate River Valley continues to take place with individual campsite improvements being done early this summer, along with efforts to improve a nearby wetland. More upgrades including a footbridge and a group campsite are still to come later this year and next.
What used to be a hodgepodge of summer camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-managed land went through a planning process in 2016 to upgrade the Oh Be Joyful Campground to a formal camping area that includes toilets, fire pits, bear-proof food storage lockers and picnic tables.
“Last fall a contractor carved out a loop road and 14 campsites,” explained BLM outdoor recreation planner Kristi Murphy, who works out of the Gunnison office. “The contractor also constructed a day use parking area that can accommodate approximately 20 vehicles.”
Overall, there are 26 total sites in the campground; a larger group site still has to be built.
At the start of this summer a Western Colorado Conservation Corp (WCCC) crew spent two weeks upgrading the new sites. The WCCC crew delineated the sites with landscape timbers, leveled campsites with additional gravel and installed metal fire rings and picnic tables along with bear-proof boxes for food.
“Later this fall BLM will be constructing additional parking at the top of the Oh Be Joyful Road near the Slate River Road as well as a place for horse trailer parking for people who want to ride in the area,” Murphy said.
“But the biggest thing yet to come is a new bridge,” Murphy continued. “A footbridge will be constructed over the Slate River this fall.” Once that’s completed, vehicles will no longer be allowed to drive across the Slate River to park and/or camp.
Murphy said one of the most interesting elements of the campground improvements took place last week. The Crested Butte Conservation Corps (CBCC) helped the BLM plant willows in a riparian area near the campsites, to enhance a nearby wetland. Murphy said this past winter, students from Gunnison High School headed up the Slate River and collected willow clippings and then grew them in the classroom as part of an experiment/class project for Scott Nordberg’s agriculture class and Leo Malloy’s outdoor education class. The willows were then transported to the wetland near the Oh Be Joyful Campground and planted by the CBCC.
“This was a great project that involved the community,” Murphy said. “Getting the students involved and using the Conservation Corps was a big help to us at the BLM.”
The parking area off the Slate River Road at the BLM’s River Flats Walk-in Campsites, located about a mile east of the Gunsight Bridge, will get an upgrade in late July. The parking area will be enlarged so cars can get a little farther off of the Slate River Road and a vault toilet will be constructed at that location as well.
“BLM still has some big project work to complete up the Slate River Valley and we are also at the point where we will start fine-tuning the improvements, adding more signage and basically buffing it out. It has taken some time and the improvements are intended to help people better enjoy their BLM public lands,” concluded Murphy.
The BLM manages about 620 acres of land in the Slate River Valley.