Growth in visitation addressed with new camping management plan; Shavano area to be designated next, on Aug. 4th
With a new plan in place to address increased visitation, overuse and resource damage on its public lands, the Bureau of Land Management began improvements at the Browns Grotto dispersed camping area near Hecla Junction this summer.
“Browns Grotto showed up online a few years ago, and it has been getting more and more use ever since,” said Kalem Lenard, assistant field manager for the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office. Unmanaged use resulted in a nearly bare parking lot with a lot of trash, as well as conflicts with a homeowner when tents blocked the driveway and their trash receptacles were filled with camper refuse.
The response to these kinds of impacts is to create designated sites on the 38,000 acres managed by the BLM in Chaffee County. This means campers must choose a numbered site, which helps contain impacts to specific areas and works toward limiting trash and human waste.
The next campsites to be addressed are in the Shavano area on County Road 250. Agency staff, the National Forest Foundation and volunteers will install site posts to clearly demarcate sites, as well as decommission other sites and revegetate. The project begins during a community work day on Friday, Aug. 4. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up with the Chaffee Rec Adopters to help!
The BLM will retain existing regular-use camping capacity at Shavano, Fourmile, Methodist Mountain and Pass Creek, among other areas, designating about 150 campsites overall in years to come. The new plan was approved this year after an extensive public process.
About 16 campsites were designated at Browns Grotto in June, and much of the area was reseeded. Camping on BLM land in the county remains free, on a first-come, first-served basis with a 14-day maximum stay over.
In the picture above, BLM park rangers Joe Jamison, left, and Jake Furnier install a metal fire ring at Browns Grotto in June, with Chaffee Rec Ranger Mike Orrill, a lead ranger with the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, and volunteer Brad Leach, a Chaffee Rec Adopter.
Adding designated camping helps achieve a major Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan objective, to provide high-quality, low-impact camping experiences. Trash, human waste and concern about wildfire risk are among the issues related to unregulated camping, and the work at Browns Grotto and Shavano are examples of how added management can improve experiences and safety for everyone.