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Campers leaving behind toilet paper, human waste in Boulder County

'Our Colorado' looks at camping issues in Boulder
Posted at 9:52 PM, May 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-01 01:44:27-04

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BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. – In Our Colorado, we’ve told you about crowded campsites, but it is what all those crowds are leaving behind that has people who live in Boulder County crying foul.

On a recent tour off Forest Service Road 332 (Peewink Mountain), evidence of nature's call is everywhere.

“There’s toilet paper there, there, there,” said Joe Hall, walking through the mess of white sheets. “I can see toilet paper over there hanging from the bush. We call them ‘twinkies.’”

And “twinkies” aren’t the worst of it.

“That’s human waste. There’s one there. It’s pretty gross,” said Hall, who is the President of Peak 2 Peak Forest Watch, a volunteer group that tracks issues in the forest and is planning to start patrols with the U.S. Forest Service in two weeks.

People who live near the Roosevelt National Forest said they saw record crowds lining the remote road last weekend.

“I mean, I’ve seen a lot of people but never that many,” said Debi Ewing, who said the toilet paper is the least of her concerns. She is more worried about the abandoned campfire ring she found two weeks ago, with a fire still burning inside. 

Her husband, Gary French, points out their concern is legitimate – evidence of the 2016 Cold Springs Fire is still clear just over the ridge.

“There were three transients in the Cold Springs area that went up there started a campfire,” said French, “They didn’t put it out all the way, and next thing you know, it burned down homes.”

French is also concerned about fire danger from people constantly shooting in the forest.

But the bottom line is, on Forest Service land, it is legal and free to “dispersed” camp, which is why more and more people are coming as traditional campsites become overcrowded.

Hall said he sees the impact every day. On this day, he took pictures of an abandoned camper left in the woods over the Holiday weekend that he will have to report to the Forest Service.

“They’ll have to use their limited resources to deal with this now,” said Hall, who hopes 25 volunteers patrolling the area will have a impact on people’s behavior.

Residents aren’t sure it will be enough.

“Patrolling is not going to be the answer,” said French. “You’re going to need legislation. You’re going to have to make regulations and rules, and it seems like it’s an act of Congress to be able to do something. They’re not going to do something until someone gets hurt.”