PARK COUNTY, Colo. -- Leaf peepers headed up to Kenosha Pass are finding a lot more brown than years past.
Plastic bags filled with dog waste are piling up across the parking lot, trails and near the restrooms. The waste problem has exploded since the U.S. Forest Service was forced to close the bathrooms on top of the pass.
“These facilities have been closed due to excessive cost of maintenance. This is a result of trash items repeatedly being deposited into the vaults,” a sign on the restroom door says.
The Forest Service said costs to pump the garbage out of the vault toilets had reached $9,600 per year. Those costs are far higher than the agency can manage to spend on one location.
“There is probably a foot-tall pile of doggie poop bags,” Janine Phillips of Kiowa said. “We’ve been coming up here for 25 years and this is the first year it’s ever been this bad.”
The problem is likely a byproduct of the pass’ popularity. During the fall, visitors flock to see the aspen trees change color.
The Forest Service estimates an additional 500 cars travel the route each day in September and early October. That number can stretch even higher on weekends when the colors are at their peak.
“It’s really important when you have that influx of people that everyone does their part to keep things like this nice or we’re not going to have it anymore,” Amy Godwin of Evergreen said.
She fears the bathroom closure could be just the beginning if the trash trouble isn’t changed.
On Tuesday afternoon, about half a dozen people stopped at the top of the pass specifically to use the restroom. It is the only one around for miles.
“So the restrooms are closed, so where are people going? That’s what I don’t want to know,” Phillips said. “If we don’t take care of what we have here it’s going to be gone.”
“We realize this is an inconvenience for travelers and we are open to partnership solutions in the future," the Forest Service said in a statement.
Visitors to places such as Kenosha Pass that do not have designated trash cans must practice the “pack it in, pack it out” rule.
That means anything brought into the area must be brought out, including trash and feces.
"There is no trash removal, so visitors must be self-sufficient, plan accordingly and pack it in, pack it out," the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.