Expected to capture up to 800 pounds of human waste annually
The Coal Creek Watershed Coalition (CCWC) has announced that a two-seat permanent vault toilet was successfully installed next to Washington Gulch Road on September 17, 2020 due to the dedication and efforts CCWC volunteers and project partners including the town of Crested Butte, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation.
Tourism and recreation have increased rapidly throughout Gunnison County in recent years. A steady flow of recreators can result in a variety of impacts on the local environment. An often unavoidable impact of recreation is human waste, which becomes an even greater concern when people stay overnight.
Recognizing human waste as a threat to the environmental integrity of Crested Butte’s local watersheds, CCWC initiated and became an active partner in the effort to manage human waste in backcountry areas near Crested Butte.
For the past several years, local partners, including CCWC, have provided portable toilets to popular dispersed camping sites and trailheads. These portable toilets have prevented thousands, if not tens of thousands, of pounds of human waste from entering local landscapes and waterways. In 2018, CCWC partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District to install a permanent toilet facility at the Musicians’ Camp, in the Upper Slate River Watershed. Since its installation, the facility has intercepted over 1,000 pounds of human waste that would otherwise be deposited in the watershed.
This summer, the CCWC partnered with the Town of Crested Butte, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation to install a permanent structure, with two vault toilets, in the Washington Gulch Watershed about 1.6 miles past the Long Lake Trailhead.
Ashley Hom with the U.S. Forest Service, the agency responsible for the maintenance of the new permanent toilets, stated, “Our success relies on our relationships and partnerships. The most enjoyable part of the project is working with our communities, which are eager to steward the land, even if it involves a toilet installation. It’s going to take our entire community to manage our public land for future generations to enjoy.”
Based on pumping records from portable toilets at nearby sites, CCWC expects the new permanent toilets to intercept about 800 pounds of human waste each year. By capturing this waste in an appropriate facility, the project protects watershed health, water quality and improves the recreational experience.
CCWC also hopes that by engaging directly with the public on projects like this the community at large will feel as though they can have a direct, positive impact on their public lands.
“It was very satisfying to help install the toilets, knowing how much human waste was being diverted from the Washington Gulch watershed,” said Jim Starr, CCWC board member and volunteer.
Starr also emphasized that the project would not have been a success without close partnerships—“A huge thank you goes out to our partners, especially the town of Crested Butte who supplied the structure,” he added.
With continued support CCWC will maintain, restore and enhance Crested Butte’s local watersheds for the benefit of wildlife, aquatic life and human life. Additional information, including a link to donate in support of future projects, is available at coalcreek.org.