Buff Pass woes on the rise as use increases | SteamboatToday.com

Buff Pass woes on the rise as use increases

Steamboat Springs residents Alex Masse, left, and Mindy Mulliken ride in the Buffalo Pass area under the changing aspen trees last fall.

People have been flocking to recreate on Buffalo Pass, and the increased use has resulted in some negative experiences for campers, hikers and the U.S. Forest Service.

"There is no doubt that Buffalo Pass is a busy place, and it's getting busier," said Chad Stewart, district ranger for the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears District.

The issues have run the gamut and include thefts, problems with bears, trash, damage to resources and conflicts between users.

"It's our highest impact area right now," Stewart said.

Thefts began occurring in early May when a Forest Service employee had all of their camping gear stolen. Recently, more camping gear was stolen, including sleeping bags and pads, blankets, a folding table and three chairs.

Theft victims included members of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and trail builders.

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There was another theft outside Buffalo Pass on Rabbit Ears Pass where gear was stolen from the front of an unlocked truck while the camper was sleeping in the bed of the truck.

Stewart said the thefts were becoming more brazen, and law enforcement officers believed the culprit would eventually be caught.

Stewart said an arrest was made Tuesday in Craig after it was discovered some of the items had been pawned. Details about the arrest were not available Wednesday.

Bears have also caused some problems on Buffalo Pass.

Stewart said the Forest Service has had to close Dry Lake Campground several times so three bears could be baited and trapped.

Trash being left has always been an issue, but Stewart said it has been especially bad this year, particularly with toilet paper.

Conflicts between hikers and cyclists is not unusual but there has been an uptick in conflicts involving all-terrain vehicle drivers and car drivers.

With new trails being constructed on Buffalo Pass, use is likely to only increase and management will have to evolve so natural resources are not damaged.

Stewart said the size of the Dry Lake Campground will likely have to be increased by adding two more loops of campsites. In conjunction with this, dispersed campsites nearby the campground would be eliminated.

Similar management practices were done at the Seedhouse Campground in North Routt County.

"It seems to be working pretty good in Seedhouse," Stewart said.

Changes might also be made to the Buffalo Pass parking area, and all the work will take time.

"That's quite a bit of planning that goes into that," Stewart said. "Probably a year or two out."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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