Youth crew helps spruce up Hartman Rocks
There’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty as part of a public lands project to instill respect for what lies out the backdoor. In recent summers, youth conservation corps members have become a staple in projects throughout the Gunnison Valley.
Most recently, a crew of 11 Western Colorado Conservation Corps members — all but a few of whom are Western State Colorado University and Gunnison High School students — were hired by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement a wide range of improvements at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area south of Gunnison.
From June 12-29, the group installed site posts and fire rings, designating 42 campsites in the “front country” of Hartman’s. Corps members also removed evidence of 90 campsites, hauling out 26,000 pounds of campfire ash mixed with nails and glass.
At the top of Kill Hill, the group placed fencing to restrict motorized travel. And a toilet was installed in the vicinity of Sea of Sage and Broken Shovel trails.
With the designation of the new campsites, dispersed camping is no longer allowed in the front country at Hartmans. However, in the middle and backcountry zones, dispersed camping is still OK.
“We’ve been planning this for years,” said BLM outdoor recreation planner Kristi Murphy, noting that the work was outlined in the Hartman Rocks Recreation Area Management Plan, enacted in 2014.
Western Colorado Conservation Corps Association Director Matt Jennings said the “Gunnison Headwaters Crew,” as it’s called, has been active in the Gunnison Valley each summer for the last few years.
The group is currently conducting a trail project for the Town of Crested Butte. A Gunnison Sage-grouse habitat project is on tap for later this summer. And the crew will end the season with a trail project near Handies Peak outside Lake City.
All told, the infrastructure improvements and labor for the project at Hartman’s cost the BLM about $60,000.
“The reason for a lot of this is just to reduce the human-use impacts and contain those uses,” Murphy said.
For instance, fire rings should help to prevent “escape” campfires at Hartman’s, which have been known to occur on occasion. Additionally, dispersed camping has compacted soil and resulted in the elimination of vegetation.
BLM officials estimate about 50,000 people per year use the popular recreation area south of Gunnison. In coming years, the agency may implement additional campsites.
“We’ll see how things are looking and what gets used,” Murphy said. “The plan calls for more restrooms and coming up with small parking areas in different areas.”
“People love Hartman’s,” she added. “It just improves things if we know where to go to clean up campsites.”
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com.)