As Colorado camping numbers rise, officials urge ‘conservation,’ preparation

Local News

CHATFIELD STATE PARK, Colo. (KDVR) — The COVID-19 pandemic brought more people to the outdoors in Colorado, and that trend is not slowing down this summer.

Colorado State Parks officials continue to see increased visitation and campground reservations. The occupied nights at campgrounds from January through April reached 53,000 this year, compared to 31,644 in 2019.

“With that comes responsibility to make sure we balance outdoor recreation with mindful conservation,” said Bridget Kochel, public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Kochel says with more visitors, state parks are experiencing increased trash and more crowded trailheads.

“With that, we’ve had to hire some more trash pickups to make sure the parks are being kept clean. Our wildlife officers have also been working really hard, because we want to keep wildlife wild, and that means making sure everyone around their campsites is putting food away, not feeding animals,” Kochel said.

Recently passed Senate Bill 21-112 will help expand and upgrade some state campgrounds in an effort to keep up with the growing demand. 

However, public lands are also feeling the effect of increased traffic. According to the Bureau of Land Management Colorado, visitation was up about 30% during the 2020 season.

“We saw more impact to trailheads, restroom facilities, areas that were just impacted by the number of people coming out,” said Steven Hall, communications director for BLM Colorado.

With more than 8 million acres of public land across Colorado, Hall said the BLM is not necessarily at risk of running out of space as more people recreate outdoors. The concern is whether everyone coming out is properly prepared.

“Do your research before you go out there, and make sure that the adventure you’re about to have on public lands is one that you’re prepared for,” Hall said.

The BLM offers dispersed camping, meaning there are no reservations and often no set campsites. Hall said it’s important to remember these sites are not the same as what you’ll find in an organized campground.

More resources for how to camp or recreate responsibly are available at Care for Colorado.

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