Council hoping to alleviate some backcountry pressure
By Aimee Eaton
The town of Mt. Crested Butte will open its property at the North Village to tent-only camping from June 30 to July 10 as an experiment to help take some pressure off overcrowding in nearby drainages. There is an established campground at the property, which is located across from the Goldlink subdivision and south of the stables.
“We’ve been allowing camping intermittently there for quite a few years, since 2011,” said Joe Fitzpatrick, town manager for Mt. Crested Butte. “It’s a 17-acre parcel that the town of Mt. Crested Butte owns.”
There are 26 formal tent sites at the campground, along with potable water, port-a-potties, a Dumpster, and one group fire ring, which may not be open if a fire restriction is put into place. Camping will be free, but all campers are expected to follow posted rules and to be respectful of the site and their neighbors.
“The town talked about doing this last year, and the campground was open to two groups during the summer,” said Fitzpatrick. “This year we decided to try it. It’s an experiment. We all know what could go wrong, but I’m choosing to have faith in people and to hope it succeeds.”
Impetus for opening the campground came from town council members wanting to help alleviate some of the pressure on the nearby backcountry during the often-crowded weeks around the Fourth of July.
The U.S. Forest Service has clamped down on parking and camping in the nearby Gothic drainage because of negative backcountry management issues in recent summers. Other area drainages are also seeing a decline in disbursed camping opportunities but this is focused on primarily alleviating pressure around Gothic.
“We get a lot of calls to the town asking about camping; we have the sites there and with the limited access going up toward Gothic this seemed like a time to try it out,” said Fitzpatrick. “We think it might fill up, but it’s hard to tell.”
Mayor Todd Barnes said it could be a great opportunity. “For the time being it is an experiment to help open up the surrounding watersheds,” he said. “We want to provide a service but we want it to be a mellow family-friendly tent campground and not a wild party campground. The police will be monitoring the area since it is right next to the station. There’s no limit and no fee so people should treat it with respect. We will see how it goes before deciding whether to keep it open beyond mid-July.”
Camping will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and campers are not limited in the number of nights they can stay but no overnight RV parking will be allowed in the nearby parking lot.