New sites planned for Avalanche Campground |

New sites planned for Avalanche Campground

A large tree fell on a tent at Avalanche Campground over Memorial Day Weekend. No one was injured, but many sites were closed.
USDA Forest Service |

Avalanche Campground will get a new life away from the old-growth conifers that made it popular and almost proved its undoing.

In late May 2011, a tree came down in a windstorm, grazing an occupied tent. A subsequent inspection of the campground resulted in the closure of all but three sites. Now, after years of discussion, the Forest Service is nearing a resolution. Folks who previously participated in public comment had a chance to raise an objection until Sunday.

Otherwise, construction on 10 new campsites could begin as early as this fall. Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers will assist with the process, which will take a couple of years.

“I’m excited to move forward,” said Martha Moran, Aspen-Sopris Ranger District recreation supervisor.

The Forest Service has been supervising the remaining old sites directly for the past three years, an unusual arrangement within the district. Most local Forest Service campgrounds — with the exception of dispersed camping without bathrooms or other facilities — are run by private concessionaires like White River Recreation. It’s a trend that started in the late 1980s, when money for campground maintenance began to dwindle.

Avalanche Campground, at the end of several miles of rough dirt road off of Highway 133 between Redstone and Carbondale, generally sees less tourist traffic than other Crystal Valley campgrounds. Although donations have kept things running, the Forest Service will likely put it back out to bid when it’s complete.

The space under the trees will be reworked as a day use area, and a bigger parking lot for Avalanche Trail #1969 is also included in the plans.

The new sites, nestled among sage and gambel oak, will not have quite the same ambiance as the old campground, although every effort is being made to provide shade. The facilities will remain at a rustic development level 3, and should remain on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

The Forest Service, Moran said, tries to provide a whole spectrum of camping opportunities. In the end, she plans for it to remain what it always has been: “a lower key development where locals go to teach their kids camping and a love for the woods.”

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