PIKE NATIONAL FOREST, Colo. (KDVR) — U.S. Forest Service officials are warning people to follow the rules while camping on public land or potentially face citations.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a surge of people taking advantage of the outdoors in Colorado. The increased traffic on National Forest land led to increased vandalism, trash and even changes to wildlife patterns.
“We’re not designed — infrastructure-wise — or set up employee-wise. to manage 3,000 visitors on a weekend. And the resource certainly isn’t able to handle that type of volume,” said Josh Voorhis, district ranger with South Park Ranger District in Pike National Forest.
Dispersed campsite designations
The Badger Flats area in Pike National Forest is one of many experiencing increased use. This year, forest officials are trying a new camping method to help protect the land, setting up designated dispersed camping spaces.
These spaces are marked with a pole in the ground, and people are not allowed to camp outside of those specified spots. Previously, campers had more freedom to choose their own campsite, often going off-road to find a new spot.
“The idea was to reduce the impact to the ground, help with wildlife concerns and other issues,” Voorhis said.
Campers defy rules
Voorhis said there have been issues with people not following the new guidelines. He said it’s a combination of people not knowing about the change, while others simply disregard the posted signage.
“We’ve had to move people out, request that they move. We have had to cite individuals who were not cooperative. We will resort to those methods, but that’s not our first route,” Voorhis said.
Voorhis said the traffic they’re experiencing is on pace with what they saw in 2020.
A spokesperson with Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests says they’ve actually seen a decrease in camping usage compared to last summer, likely due to heavy rain so far this season.