Letter to the Editor: Chaffee County Recreation Plan Draft – By Community Contributor

Envision Chaffee is asking citizens to submit comments by June 20 on the draft Chaffee County Recreation Plan they have prepared. I would strongly recommend that readers visit this site to read the draft plan and post comments to make their own views known.

In this letter, I have summarized some of the deep concerns I have with the draft recreation plan regarding serious flaws in the analysis, the method of data collection and presentation, and the obvious bias in the preparation and presenting what should have been an independent assessment of citizens’ wishes on recreation in Chaffee County.

An enthusiastic crowd of about 100 showed up at the Recreation in Balance rally on February 6, 2019. Photos by Henry DeKam.

A little history first. Envision Chaffee received a 2020 Recreation Management Grant of $ 40,609 to create the Chaffee Recreation Plan by Chaffee Common Ground. The Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee recommends awarding grants from a portion of Chaffee sales tax revenues, with county commissioners making the final grant decisions.

The co-leaders of Envision Chaffee are Greg Felt, chairman of the Chaffee County Commissioners, and Cindy Williams, who is also chair of the Chaffee County Common Ground Advisory Committee. Rick Hum is also a member of the Envision Chaffee Board of Directors and the Chaffee Common Ground Advisory Board. David Kelly, another Envision Chaffee board member, received a $ 40,000 grant from the Chaffee Common Ground Advisory Committee from county sales tax revenue to fund an irrigation system at his ranch.

Thanks to this taxpayer-funded grant, Envision Chaffee released an online survey of Chaffee County recreation in August 2020 as part of the Envision Recreation in Balance program, led by Cindy Williams. Their website says the goals for the Recreation Balance programs have been developed “for the Chaffee Recreation Council to provide a management plan for all land by 2021.”

As reported in May 2021, Chaffee’s five-year recreation plan was developed by the Recreation Council and a task force made up of representatives from outdoor user groups and citizens as a result of the Envision planning initiative. Chaffee County from 2017. On the Recreation in Balance website, members of the Recreation Council include County Commissioners Felt and Baker, several other local city, state and federal officials, and Cindy Williams, Rick Hum and Kim Marquis, representatives of Envision Chaffee, as appointed citizen members. to the Council.

When the Chaffee County Recreation Survey was released last year, I was one of 1,381 Chaffee County respondents. I was shocked at the time by what I perceive to be the lack of professionalism in the preparation of the survey and the obvious bias of the questions. The title of the email containing the survey was “Are You Concerned About Growth in Leisure?”

The majority of the questions were about outdoor recreation in general and caused the survey participant to think of the worst – scattered camping, garbage, human waste. However, the survey included relatively few specific questions about specific forms of outdoor recreation, as well as their value and importance. Very little data on our trail systems, our users and the value to our community has been collected, which, given the economic benefits that recreation brings to the valley, has highlighted the deeply flawed and biased nature of this investigation.

The draft recreation plan draws heavily on this flawed survey and recommends the closure and containment of scattered campsites stating that “87% support the closure of inappropriate campsites” and “68% for the transition from open scattered camping. at designated sites ”.

One of the goals of the plan is to “halve the impact of scattered camping”. This recommendation of the “recreational plan” neglects to take into account that, due to the lack of affordable housing and the limited availability of serviced campgrounds in the county, many seasonal workers in the local summer economy are forced to live. on public land during the summer months. .

Camping on public land has become the benchmark for inexpensive accommodation near businesses, municipalities and recreation areas. Envision Chaffee itself reported in 2018 that “the main concern expressed by the 1,200 community members who took part in the Envision Chaffee survey was the affordability of housing relative to local wages.”

While I agree with the recommendation of “Transition from open scatter camping by developing more fee-based campgrounds,” the Plan’s recommendation to reduce scattered camping could dramatically exacerbate the already critical housing shortage in Chaffee County. , if carried out before providing an adequate alternative. paid campgrounds.

It should be noted that Chaffee County Commissioners denied Agastache Village Tiny Home / RV Park’s application, a development designed to provide affordable housing options, based on complaints from local residents. If you agree that County Commissioners identify exactly where these developed camping alternatives will be located before taking action to advocate for reduced access to campsites on public land for their citizens who do not have a home. other accommodation options, please post this as a comment here.

Many other local groups that represent long-term recreational users in Chaffee County have also raised serious concerns about the recreation plan. Salida Mountain Trails raised concerns about the plan’s emphasis on the relationship between recreation in general and its effects on wildlife. I should point out that although the Rec plan states that Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) “studies show that recreational activities move wildlife,” they provide no reference to this study. In addition, CPW already has a rigorous and effective process to manage critical wildlife, assess recreational impacts and manage seasonal closures.

I think it is highly inappropriate that the recreation plan recommends that Chaffee County assert itself in this process, pointing out the flaws in this process by assigning the responsibility for generating this plan to a special interest group. third party, Envision, in the first place.

For more details on other potentially serious flaws in this recreation plan highlighted by the multi-generational residents of Chaffee County and long-term advocates of keeping public lands open to the public, I recommend you read these comments and to watch this informative video. If you agree that wildlife impact management should continue to be managed by USFS, BLM, and CPW, and Chaffee County should not be part of the traffic management process for land public, then submit a comment here.

Make your comments and opinions on the draft recreation plan known to the Chaffee County Commissioners and post them on the Envision comments page. For my part, I think that this project of a complete leisure plan should be abandoned and that the planning process should be taken over by an organization different from that of Envision, whose close relations (some might say incestuous) with the commissioners of the Chaffee County and the Common Ground Advisory Council raise questions. on the obvious bias of the survey used to gather citizen feedback and the program of the Envision Recreation in Balance program that was funded to prepare this plan.

I also believe that a public meeting is needed to receive in-person feedback on the draft recreation plan and that tough questions also need to be put to our county commissioners regarding how our tax money has been spent. in this process.

For example (i) Was there a competitive bidding process for the preparation of this recreation plan? (ii) How are conflicts of interest managed between the members of the Envision Chaffee Board and the Common Ground Advisory Committee and the Chaffee County Commissioners? (iii) Did the members of the Envision Chaffee Board of Directors and Commissioner Greg Felt recuse themselves from the decision to provide taxpayer funding to Envision Chaffee? (iv) Why were long-term local and national recreation organizations with significant representation in Chaffee not included in the development of this recreation plan?

Dr Alison Brown


Editor’s Note: Dr Alison Brown is a major shareholder of Ark Valley Voice LLC. It has no editorial control.

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