Survey shows rec users treasure unspoiled landscapes and amazing experiences
Did you know that up to 4 million people visit Chaffee County every year? Visitor spending grew 13% annually in the years leading up to the pandemic and this summer, even more people visited public lands to get outside, disconnect and discover solitude. If growth continues at the pre-pandemic pace, use will climb to 8 million people by 2026.
Chaffee County’s easy access to lots of recreation opportunities is one of the main reasons people choose to live here and visit, according to the Chaffee Recreation Survey, which also identified pressing concerns about the negative impacts of recreation growth:
- 80% of residents and half of visitors say local forest and wildlife health have degraded over time, citing “overuse” and “irresponsible use” as the top reasons.
- 63% of residents and 41% of respondents say recreation is not being managed sustainably.
Half of residents and a third of visitors say the quality of their experiences is declining as they encounter more — and often irresponsible — users. The other half of residents and two-thirds of visitors say their experiences are better, many citing improved opportunities and amenities in and around towns and the Arkansas River. Write-in comments mention additional river water park features, new low-country motorcycle trails, more single-track trails with good maintenance, improved signage and improved river cleanliness and water quality.
HOW We Grow Matters!
However they recreate in Chaffee County, the majority of outdoor enthusiasts are supportive of new management approaches to address growth, according to the survey. People love this place and they want to keep it special …
- 95% say that protecting healthy forests, waters and wildlife is important
- 94% say that maintaining quality experiences is important
- 75% to 95% support limiting recreation development in areas most critical to wildlife; closing inappropriate campsites; prohibiting fires near timberline; requiring fire pans in vehicle-access campsites; and additional enforcement.
Chaffee County is a fantastic place to live and recreate, we all need to work to maintain this special environment for future generations.”Chaffee Recreation Survey write-in comment
Survey Analysis provided in the Chaffee Recreation Report
The report shows current trends relative to achieving a three-pronged goal set out by the Envision Recreation in Balance program and the Chaffee Recreation Council, to (1) Sustain the economic benefits of recreation tourism, (2) Maintain healthy forests, waters, wildlife and working lands, and (3) Retain exceptional multi-use outdoor experiences. The report finds …
- Dispersed campsites doubled in number and size in popular areas like Fourmile
- The amount of trash and human waste is increasing from backcountry areas to the towns
- 30% of sites were found with more than a gallon of trash or human waste during monitoring
- USFS staff responded to 32 abandoned or illegal campfires in the first six months of 2020
- Land agency dollars-per-visitor has dropped 40% since 2016
- 65% of key wildlife populations are in decline
In addition, cut fences and damaged stock tanks cost local agricultural producers thousands of dollars a year, threatening the sustainability of open lands that residents feel are important to their quality of life.
The report developed by the Chaffee Recreation Council provides trend data for these topics and others. Find out how different wildlife populations are faring, which new management solutions people like, how much they are willing to pay to support them, and much more.
Now is the time to Act!
The 23-member Chaffee Recreation Council is developing an all-lands recreation management plan by mid-2021. They are inspired by support from residents and visitors to change the current trajectory, so that the most valued aspects of recreation today will also be available tomorrow.
The Chaffee Recreation Survey collected data from 3,863 people, including nearly 17,000 write-in comments! Read select survey write-in opinions, study user receptivity to management actions or dive into the raw data by downloading the 50-page survey report.
What happens next?
The difficult work of managing rapid growth in ways that sustain our tourism economy, natural resources and exceptional outdoor experiences requires energized and enabled people from all groups working together. The Chaffee Recreation Council and the Recreation Taskforce will deliver the Chaffee Recreation Plan by mid-2021. But the magic ingredient is you!
- Learn more about the Envision Recreation in Balance program and sign up to stay informed via the email newsletter
- Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Look for an opportunity to attend a public meeting in early 2021 to review progress with us
Absolutely love Chaffee County and will do whatever I can to continue the beautiful county it is so my kids can enjoy it just as I did as a kid.”Chaffee Recreation Survey write-in comment