Year 2012 through Spring 2013 Activities – “The program continues…”
New Fourmile brochure hits the field – A new and much-improved Fourmile brochure has been produced, replacing the older version which has been around since about 2005. Since that time 55,000 brochures have been distributed by Friends volunteers, the Forest Service, BLM, local Chambers of Commerce and recreation businesses.
A quick look at the new (above left) and old (above right) maps shows how much has changed: the map (and brochure) is twice as large, and topographic lines and shading and other details have been added. The routes have been carefully classified as to what uses are permitted, including decisions made in 2012 by Chaffee County on routes open or closed to unlicensed OHVs (ATVs and motorcycles.) This map is now consistent with the Forest Service’s National Motor Vehicle Use Map (NMVUM) which is the formal, legal document to be followed by motorized and non-motorized users.
The brochure text has been expanded, giving more local history and guidelines for camping that “Leave No Trace” and providing more information on where recreational uses are common: camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback and OHV use.
See links above to download the new brochure or just the map. Paper copies are available free at entry points to Fourmile, the Buena Vista and Salida Chambers of Commerce, and various local recreation shops.
Analysis of 2012 and 2013 Memorial Day visitor use surveys
For the 5th year in a row, Friends volunteers undertook an informal survey of visitor use in Fourmile on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (May 25, 2013). This has been shown to be the busiest weekend of the entire season (considered the “peak weekend”). Although it does not reflect the much lower levels of use later in the season or on weekdays, measuring use at the peak helps identify trends and estimate the proportion of different users and their impacts.
Here are highlights comparing 2013 to 2012 and a few observations over the period 2009-2013 and earlier.
- There was a 30-40% increase in total use (day and overnight) observed in 2013 over 2012
- Although that increase was primarily in motorized use there were increasing numbers and proportions of non-motorized users, particularly as overnight campers-overnight camping was up 45%
- Total number of sites occupied increased by 15% over 2012
- New sites continue to be created due to perceived need by visitors (5 in 2013, 4 in 2012)
- Behavior of most visitors was respectful although two problems continue: children playing at campsites on OHVs; dirtbikes exceeding 25mph and not exhibiting appropriate concern for the safety of others
Although increases in 2013 over 2012 are real, they may be explained by factors such as the Memorial weekend also being Paddlefest in Buena Vista when many participants camp in Fourmile but recreate on the river outside Fourmile; late snowpack at higher elevations tends to concentrate use in lower elevations like Fourmile. Regardless of the reasons, increased use brings increased pressure on the area’s resources including expansion of camping sites and use of firewood. It also brings, at least for this busy weekend, more potential for conflict between users.
As for trends in the surveys from 2009 through 2013: the total number of camping sites occupied each year has been about the same but the number of campers and their vehicles, particularly motorized overnight users, has increased. The increased number of campers translates into more people squeezing into existing camping areas, inevitably expanding those areas as well as creating new areas which typically are camped in the following Memorial Day.
On observed changes since 2003 (before annual surveys were initiated): the total number of camping sites has increased perhaps 30-50%. The size of previous camping sites has remarkably increased, in some cases fivefold. Both changes have been due primarily to increased overnight use by motorized users arriving in large towed vehicles and RVs, and the use of camping sites by young OHV riders playing while adults relax in camp. Overnight use by mountain bikers and river users has added to the trend towards more and larger sites.
If interested in a more detailed analysis, contact Alan Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guided hike explores a potential new hiking/biking trail
In August 2012 Friends led its annual GARNA-sponsored hike to highlight Fourmile. The 2012 routewas along a section of “informal” or “user created” trail known locally as the “Vitamin B” east of Buena Vista. Although not recognized as a legal system route by the Forest Service, the Vitamin B was created and is used by mountain bikers as an advanced and technical trail. It has been proposed to become a legal route by the local bicycle club Ark Valley Velo but not yet accepted by the Forest Service. Not only is it a spectacular and challenging bike ride but also a great route for hiking – see photos. Ultimately cyclists and hikers need to coordinate their requests for this to get through the process of approval by the Forest Service (and the BLM for stretches near Turtle Rock camping area).
Guided hike explores a potential new hiking/biking trail
In August 2012 Friends led its annual GARNA-sponsored hike to highlight Fourmile. The 2012 route was along a section of “informal” or “user created” trail known locally as the “Vitamin B” east of Buena Vista. Although not recognized as a legal system route by the Forest Service, the Vitamin B was created and is used by mountain bikers as an advanced and technical trail. It has been proposed to become a legal route by the local bicycle club Ark Valley Velo but not yet accepted by the Forest Service. Not only is it a spectacular and challenging bike ride but also a great route for hiking . Ultimately cyclists and hikers need to coordinate their requests for this to get through the process of approval by the Forest Service (and the BLM for stretches near Turtle Rock camping area).
In both 2012 and 2013 the Friends fielded teams to help in the AHRA/GARNA-sponsored 21st and 22nd annual CleanUp GreenUp activities. The Chapter opted to do its cleanup within Fourmile while other volunteers worked along the river. Veteran “cleaners” note that although Fourmile visitors pay more attention to “packing it out” now than in earlier years, there are still thoughtless users who have not gotten with the program. Especially a problem are target shooters who leave behind shotgun cartridges or brass and hundreds of shards of broken glass, and campers who somehow are convinced that cans and bottles tossed in a campfire will miraculously burn up. The 2012 CleanUp concentrated on removing old fire rings in areas no longer available for camping. Broken glass was removed, ashes buried and the fire rings dismantled to discourage reuse.
Field inspections and workdays with QUC and agencies
Continuing a tradition of working with other organized user groups, in the summer of 2012 the chapter joined the Quiet Use Coalition, Forest Service and BLM to investigate reported illegal motorized use in the northern half of the BLM’s Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area and the adjacent roadless area of the Forest Service. After a long day’s traverse it was evident to the land managers that motorized use continues in closed areas south of ATV route 1434. Several weeks later a mixed crew of Friends, QUC members and agency staff cooperated in a workday to erect barrier fences and other measures to deter continued trespass.
Participant in Browns Canyon National Monument discussions
Although Friends of Fourmile, like GARNA, has taken no formal position on the proposed Browns Canyon National Monument, the Chapter has a vested interest because a substantial part (perhaps 6,000 acres) of the proposed Monument lies within the Fourmile Travel Management Area. Over the past 10 years, Chapter members have hiked hundreds of off-trail miles within the proposed area and provided BLM and Forest Service managers with insights, descriptions (and photographs) even their own staff were not familiar with, especially far from the easily-visited river corridor (see photo). During 2012, Senator Udall’s staff requested and was given briefings related to the history of planning the southern part of Fourmile which lies within the proposed Monument.
Assistance to Ark Valley Velo / BLM in trail building
In both 2012 and early 2013 Friends have been assisting the BLM and the local northern Chaffee County cycling group Ark Valley Velo to construct or reroute bicycle and hiking trails in the Collegiate Peaks Overlook section of Fourmile. These are trails authorized in the existing Travel Management Plan so have been readily approved by BLM; entirely new trails on either BLM or Forest Service lands will require additional environmental analysis and public input before being authorized. Trail 6034 has been rerouted to avoid erosion problems related to horse use from a commercially-permitted wrangler; 6034A is a new extension which adds several miles of advanced mountain biking and hiking opportunities; 6033 will soon be completed as an alternate hiking and biking connection from the Collegiate Peaks Overlook to the Midland Bicycle Trail.
Award from US Forest Service
In May 2013 the Friends Chapter was honored, along with other recipients, with an award for volunteer service by the Salida District of the Forest Service. Here Forest Recreation manager Ben Lara (at left, in uniform) is presenting the award to long-time Friends members Jeanne Younghaus, Alan Robinson, Karen Robinson, Kathy McCoy and Lyn Berry. In 2012 the Chapter’s small but active membership of 9 volunteers contributed over 750 hours valued at over $16,000.
- In May 2013, GARNA’s Alison Ramsey and Friends of Fourmile’s Alan Robinson assisted the US Forest Service Salida Ranger District in presenting a workshop on “volunteering” and “trail planning and construction” to seven Brazilian protected area specialists.
- The Buena Vista public school’s Conservation Camp at the Little Annie Mine in Fourmile was assisted in both years by Friends Jeanne Younghaus and TR Evans.