Mt. CB decides against allowing car camping in town for now

26 site campground is available for tent camping

[ By Kendra Walker ]

During their June 15 meeting, the Mt. Crested Butte town council considered allowing car camping at its current 26 walk-in tent site campground for locals in need of a temporary “home” to park, but ultimately decided not to make any changes until more demand is apparent.

Town manager Isa Reeb explained that the idea emerged from the recent community housing crisis discussions, and while zoning for single family residential allows for RV or van camping on an improved lot or driveway for 14 consecutive days, the town staff and police department have explored other sites in Mt. Crested Butte that could potentially allow car camping. These lots include the town’s tent site parking lot, the Snodgrass trailhead, the Rasta lot, Snowmass lot and the RC-1 lot connected to CBMR.

However, staff came to the conclusion that the town’s current walk-in tent site campground parking lot is the only reasonable location at this time, and the other lots were better served for day-use and would be difficult to patrol. “It is likely the only place that is a viable location only because people camp there already and we patrol that area already and can see it,” said Reeb.

“We feel that providing overnight camping is not responsible in general,” she continued. “The demand for this need has not actually been verified. We don’t have a waiting list of people looking to camp in their van or RV.”

“Do those sites fill up?” asked council member Nicholas Kempin.

“No, they do not fill up and there’s very rarely anybody there,” answered Reeb, explaining that there was one tent the previous weekend and one more that popped up the day of the meeting.

“Without some idea of what the demand might be, why would we want to do that?” asked council member Dwayne Lehnertz. “Once you open the door it creates more problems. I don’t see the problem that we’re solving by doing it.”

“If you weren’t aware, there is a bit of a housing problem right now,” said council member Lauren Koelliker. She was in favor of allowing car camping at the camping parking lot. “We have a nice camping spot already available and I think that’s the most logical place. It shows we are interested in helping. I would be in support of issuing permits to let people camp in our camping-specific spot and if demand is overwhelming we could look at other options, perhaps waive the ban on sleeping in your vehicle.”

“There are neighbors right there next door that could be affected by this, there needs to be rules to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand,” said Reeb. “This would be a little bit different if we allowed car camping.”

Because of its location to Fantasy Ranch, the campground does not allow dogs, which is non-negotiable, according to Reeb.
Koelliker asked if dogs could be kept on a leash or left in the car. “I see dogs running around the Snodgrass trailhead next to Fantasy Ranch and dogs are allowed on the Rec Path right there.”

“I don’t believe we would be able to enforce it,” said Reeb. “What happens when the people go to work, are they actually going to keep them on a leash?”

Council member Michael Bacani was in favor of issuing car camping permits. “I think adding four permits to camp there adds another layer of ‘hey, we’re here to help,’” he said.

“If those campsites were full all the time or full often I would be more interested in this,” said Kempin. “I get the distinction about van camping and all that but given that it’s sitting empty…I’m not sure what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“Trying to use camping to help solve a housing crisis, that’s opening a Pandora’s box that I don’t think should be opened,” said Lehnertz.

“I don’t’ think it’s supposed to solve the crisis,” said Koelliker, commenting that it will just help people in housing transition or locals who typically camp all summer and might be affected by the new designated camping regulations. “People aren’t going [to the campground] because they’re not allowed to take their vans there. We’re not going to see them show up there because it’s illegal for them,” said Koelliker.

Council members Roman Kolodziej and Steve Morris were not present at the meeting to give their input.

Reeb volunteered to ask the police department to let her know if people were trying to park and camp overnight in town, and to ask them if they’re local or not.

“Maybe that will help answer the demand question,” she said.

For now, the 26-site tent only campground is free and available, first come first served with no limit to the length of stay.

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