Trashed campsites: a growing issue in Colorado

Posted at 8:55 PM, May 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-31 22:55:34-04

The U.S. Forest Service is urging campers to pick up their trash and take better care of our public land.

"I do get frustrated when we find areas that have been overly impacted," said Reid Armstrong a spokesperson with the Forest Service.

"It's really sad to see," said Nederland resident Sam Von Mettenheim.

The Forest Service said some of the most impacted campsites are West Magnolia and Gordon Gulch in Western Boulder County.  

"We have seen an increase," said Armstrong. "We are working to address that with local law enforcement.”

Earlier this month, Armstrong said the Forest Service cleaned up parts of the West Magnolia campsite where they found piles of left over tents, sleeping bags and trash.

"For us to educate folks about packing out their trash is really important, about keeping campfires within existing rings and to understand the rules of being good stewards of the land," she said.

Crews also put up new fences to encourage people to stay within the designated camping areas.

Marshall Paul Carrill with the Nederland Police Department said a big part of the problem are transients or displaced families who come up to the forest looking to live off the land.

"Some individuals come to the mountains and take advantage of the free camping," he said.

Nederland Police work in cooperation with the Boulder County Sheriff's Office who has primary jurisdiction over the campsites in Western Boulder County along with the Forest Service.

Carrill said deputies have increased patrols in the areas after records show the county saw a 32 precent increase in calls for service in this area of the forest last year.

"They range from anything from noise disturbances, to littering, to physical assaults to gunfire," he said.

The Forest Service said it has no plans to close any of the campgrounds, but is working closely with police and the community to try and solve what has become a complex problem.

"I think the population growth in the Front Range has had an impact on the number of people who are using the national forest up here," said Armstrong.  “We want everyone to be able to come out and recreate and enjoy the land and have the same experience.”

There are limits for how long people can camp on national forest land. Campers can only be at one spot for 14 days or 28 days in a two month period, but the Forest Service said those rules can be extremely difficult to enforce.

“We do have folks that do come up here and stay longer than that," said Armstrong.