Elk Creek Campground gets blessing from Garfield County
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Neighbors angered over management of a campground north of New Castle as a “man camp” got to vent their feelings at a recent hearing.
But they did not achieve their objective of convincing the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to either close or greatly restrict the campground’s operations.
Neighbors say the owner of Elk Creek Campground, builder Briston Peterson, has been running an illegal man camp, by providing long-term temporary housing for gas industry workers. They also said he has ignored court orders to improve the camp’s water system, access road and other requirements.
Peterson insisted the campground is no longer a man camp for transient energy workers, but is a recreation-oriented resort catering to campers, hikers, hunters and others who come to enjoy the Colorado backcountry.
“This is about a pretty big investment,” said Peterson, who said he gets campers from all over the region. He called his campground “a major economic driver for the town of New Castle, and for the county.”
“If a worker wants to come down and visit our campground for 120 days, I’ve got open arms,” he added.
The campground, which has been in place since the 1950s, is nestled downhill at 921 Elk Creek Road (County Road 241), and is reached by a steep driveway off the county road.
In 2008, Garfield County sought an injunction against the then-owners of the campground over inadequate water and sewage treatment, and improper expansion of the campground from the allowed 67 spaces.
A court settlement included stipulations instructing the owner to improve the water system or face a 60-day limit on continuous stays by the campers.
Currently, according to Peterson, the limit is 120 days.
One critic of the campground, neighbor Vonnie VanHoose, said at the Sept. 19 BOCC hearing that some campers had been there since May. “This is why we’re so mad about this. I see this heading to another man camp,” she said.
Another neighbor, Rick Hunter, agreed with VanHoose and told the BOCC, “It just doesn’t belong there.”
Peterson said on Monday that much of the neighborhood animosity goes back to before he owned it or had control over it. Peterson conceded he was an investor in the property when it was a man camp.
But since taking over the property about a year ago, Peterson told the Post Independent, he has rebuilt the water system, spruced up the cabins, installed smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and made other improvements. And he said he is trying to work with his neighbors.
“If people fail to see what my business plan is, it’s their … I wish they would see,” he said.
Several speakers at the hearing cautioned that the intersection at the driveway already has caused some traffic mishaps, due to the steepness of the driveway and the fact that it comes out at a curve in the county road, creating a blind spot.
The commissioners declined to address any of the complaints other than the stated purpose of the hearing, which was to determine if the intersection of the driveway and CR 241 needs improvement.
They ruled that Peterson must clear brush away from the entrance to the campground to give a clear line of sight for 300 feet in either direction, and erect signs warning motorists of the driveway coming up from the campground.
The BOCC also agreed to allow Peterson to operate his campground from early May through the end of November each year, adding a month at each end of the season.
Commissioner Mike Samson, after hearing the complaints from neighbors of the Elk Creek Campground north of New Castle, cast a dissenting vote in opposition to his fellow commissioners.
“I think there’s a big accident waiting to happen up there if we open it in May and November,” he said, after explaining that it is not uncommon to see snow and ice form at high elevations in either month, which could create a safety hazard at the intersection.
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