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New Carbondale ‘destination stewardship’ message urges visitors to walk softly

A mountain biker rides past the trailhead at Red Hill in Carbondale in this April 26, 2021 file photo.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times file

“Take it Easy” is the newest slogan for Carbondale Tourism, urging visitors to be more conscientious about their impact on the community and its surroundings.

Carbondale is a unique destination in that it’s not your typical tourist town, said Sarah-Jane Johnson, who handles tourism promotions for the Carbondale Chamber through Roadmap Consulting.

“Carbondale doesn’t feel like a resort town,” she said at Wednesday’s Carbondale Confluence business summit when the question “Why do people come to Carbondale?” was posed. 



“We feel like a town where people live,” she said.

For that reason, and because the community strongly values conservation, Carbondale Tourism has been working for the past several months on a new responsible visitation campaign.



“Take it Easy” has a double meaning, Johnson pointed out.

“It’s a call to action for visitors, and to locals, to think about the impact they are having on people and the environment — to take it easy on our natural resources, our town and each other,” she said. “But, also, take it easy when you come to Carbondale by enjoying our laid-back vibe and to have a good time.”

For locals, that same message can extend to the way people interact with each other around town or behind the wheel, “like, don’t honk in the roundabout if you don’t have to,” Johnson said.

Carbondale is becoming more of a year-round destination, riding the growing popularity of rural mountain towns all across the West.

Lodging occupancy is now above 50% all year long, and proceeds from the town’s 2% lodging tax continue to go up.

Most of that money goes back into tourism promotion efforts, but there has been a shift toward tourism management and what’s called “destination stewardship,” Johnson said.

Recently, tourism officials approached the town’s Board of Trustees about possibly seeking a lodging tax increase to go, in part, toward the management side of tourism. 

There are negative impacts from tourism, including burdens on the town’s infrastructure, additional trash and pollution, wildlife disruptions and social impacts, Johnson noted.

That touches on everything from long waits at your favorite restaurant to having strangers showing up at the house next door because it’s a short-term vacation rental.

“We recognize that tourism has to carry its own weight,” she said.

The town board opted to wait before asking voters to increase the lodging tax but is proposing in the November election to tax short-term rentals as a way to support the town’s efforts to provide more affordable housing for local residents. 

To help get the message across, the chamber now has a “Take it Easy” toolkit for Carbondale businesses to share the message with visitors about how to tread more lightly while they’re in town, through counter displays and concierge talking points. Those messages can also be shared through social-media channels and other marketing.  

Carbondale Tourism is also now an official stewardship member of the Care for Colorado Coalition, which promotes “leave no trace” principles statewide. 

Visitor Stewardship Guide

Know Before You Go

Stay back from the pack. Find your way to less-visited and off-peak destinations to minimize downtime and maximize your connection with special places.

Bring along reusable water bottles or hot drink tumblers to limit waste and stay hydrated in our dry climate. Check conditions where you plan to visit.

In Colorado, even late spring can bring snowstorms, so be aware of the latest news for weather and snow, as well as for road and trail closures.

Stick to Trails

  • Even though shortcuts can be tempting, please don’t take them. A few extra strides on the path will protect plants and the homes of the true locals.
  • Melting snow leaves trails and vegetation more open to damage. Be sure to stick to trails, and walk in the middle of the trail — even if it’s wet, muddy, slushy or icy — to avoid erosion and damage to trailside plants.

Trash the Trash

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Or, pick it up to leave a place better than you found it. Put litter — even crumbs, peels and cores — in your nearest waste/recycling bin.
  • Wash yourself, your dog or whatever else needs cleaning at least 200 feet from waterways, and use biodegradable soap. A bubble bath is no treat for fish.

Leave It As You Find It

  • Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them, so others experience the joy of discovery.
  • Treat all living things with respect. Carving or hacking plants and trees may kill or disfigure them.

Be Careful with Fire

  • Colorado’s low humidity has perks but can create dry, dangerous conditions. Keep campfires small and manageable to avoid sparking wildfires.
  • When putting out a fire, water it until you can handle the embers. Never let a fire burn unattended.
  • Use care when smoking in Colorado’s dry climate. Always put cigarettes out completely, and don’t leave your butts behind.
  • Always check for local fire restrictions.

Keep Wildlife Wild

  • Colorado is home to tens of thousands of furry, scaly and feathered creatures. To keep them — and you — safe, don’t approach them.
  • Do not feed wildlife no matter how hungry you think they might look.
  • Keep your furry buddies leashed when enjoying dog-friendly trails, and pack out their waste. All the way to a trash can.

Share Parks and Trails

  • Pick up dog waste and dispose properly.
  • Chances are you’re not out in nature to people-watch, so try out the lesser-known paths and sites.
  • Silence your cell phone before stepping into nature, and speak softly without using the speaker function.
  • Be considerate when passing others on the trails, and yield to the uphill hiker and biker — they need the momentum.
  • Listen to nature. Keep your voice and music soft, so all can enjoy the peace of Colorado.

Source: Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

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