Read the article from the Daily Camera here. Copied below in its entirety:
Peak 2 Peak Forest Watch founder Joe Hall, looks at an unoccupied campsite in an area of national forest lands. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)
The alarm was sounded little more than a year ago that problem campers on national forest lands and elsewhere near Nederland could spell serious trouble. It didn’t take long for those predictions to prove prescient.
The Cold Springs Fire erupted outside Nederland on July 9. Before it was finally quelled, it had torched more than 500 acres and destroyed eight homes. Miraculously, no lives were lost. And few in the high country were surprised to find that the blaze was ignited by two campers — men from Alabama whose campfire on private property had grown out of control.
Well before the Cold Springs Fire, a citizen’s action group had sprung to life, stoked in no small part by residents’ outrage over the trash, the flouting of the rules, drugs and other petty crime that were turning West Magnolia and other nearby camping areas into what they considered no-go zones. Their ire was reflected in the group’s very name, the Peak to Peak Transients and Troublemakers Workgroup.
But that group has been rebranded as Peak 2 Peak Forest Watch. The group recently incorporated as a nonprofit so that it can seek grants and accept donations. It now has a board of directors and, perhaps most importantly, it boasts a broad game plan that has given some residents seeds of hope.
“I’m feeling good about the progress the community has made in working together,” said area resident Joe Hall, president and founder of Peak 2 Peak Forest Watch. “I’m heartened by the cooperation that agencies have shown, and the willingness that agencies have shown, now that we have sort of proven ourselves.”
Hall is excited about a multipronged approach, which involves use of its website as a portal where citizens’ reports on problem campsites can be accessed — then acted upon — by law enforcement. There is also a new brochure, “Camping in the Peak to Peak Region,”highlighting proper use of the forest to be distributed through multiple agencies through their encounters with the homeless, plus a pilot program of paired, trained citizen patrols to provide more eyes and ears on what goes on in the woods.
All of the group’s initiatives have been developed through repeated meetings and brainstorming with the U.S. Forest Service, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, Nederland police and fire officials, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Boulder County Parks and Open Space and the Nederland Interagency Council on Homeless Encampments.
Reid Armstrong, spokeswoman for the Forest Service’s Boulder Ranger District, gives high marks to the contributions of the 700-member Peak 2 Peak Forest Watch group.
“They have created a reporting tool that provides a central location for reporting activities across the Boulder Ranger District, allowing for a quicker response to address issues, as well as being able to respond back with actions taken,” Armstrong said in an email.
“This reporting tool has been valuable to us in providing a streamlined mechanism for citizens to report issues, and for us to communicate back when the issues have been addressed.”
Efforts developed for the summer 2017 season -— and beyond — get approving marks from Nederland Town Marshal Paul Carrill.
“Based on the positive efforts of Peak to Peak, the information and the contributions by its members have resulted in it going from anecdotal information about bad behavior in the forest to objective, factual information,” Carrill said.
“What that gives us is real-time data to say, all right, these are the problems that are occurring, these are the areas that the problems are occurring in now, so, how do we deal with those problems? That’s going to be where the real dollar challenges come into it, the money challenges and the personnel challenges come into it.”
Carrill is alluding to the fact that he anticipates losing three of the town’s four patrol officers this summer to higher-paying jobs with other police agencies.
“It’s a cause and effect; the demand for enhanced police services along the Front Range has created an increase in police positions,” Carrill said. “Salaries paid along the Front Range pay about $20,000 more than what is paid in the mountains. That’s just the economics of policing.”
Armstrong said the Forest Service has recently entered into a cooperative agreement with the Nederland Police Department to provide funding for additional Nederland police patrols on nights and weekends.
The citizen patrols to be initiated through Peak 2 Peak Forest Watch are being styled somewhat after the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance volunteers program. With a possible launch of the first teams by mid-June, Hall said participants, clad in identifying vests, will be deployed only after completing multiple training “modules” with partner agencies — including drills on the most effective means of dousing campfires — to ensure that they are prepared to be effective forest “ambassadors.”
“The entire idea of the patrol program is to provide a presence and provide educational outreach to people,” Hall said. “No part of the program will involve any enforcement, whatsoever.”
That’s just fine with Boulder County Undersheriff Tommy Sloan, who has been a department point person on the issues associated with problem campers in the county’s high country.
“It will be an interesting experiment, because there are other models out there,” Sloan said, referencing for example the volunteer trail watchers who work with the U.S. Forest Service at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area several miles north on Colo. 72.
“But this is a very different community that they’ll be going into,” Hall said. “They’re going to have a lot more challenges, and it will be interesting to see how that goes. Because the last thing we would want is for them to have any altercation come out of it. If they use it for an educational piece, that’s the best that we can hope for.”
Night closure debate
Part of the concern last summer was that on top of the usual footloose traffic that typically flows through Nederland in the summer, authorities feared that two days of Boulder concerts by Dead & Company, the remnants of the Grateful Dead, would draw huge numbers of its tribe to the area. There were worries that many of their faithful might make their homes in the high country woods for a few days.
Dead & Company are back again this year, June 9 and 10 at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field. But anxiety is not running quite so high this time around.
“We’re aware of the scheduled concerts, but regarding them, and the question about whether there was a direct impact up here last year, in reality .. there was nothing” in Nederland that reflected a tie-dyed invasion creeping up Boulder Canyon, Carrill said.
Kris Hess, a resident of the Big Springs subdivision that overlooks Barker Reservoir, has lived in the area part-time since 2010 and full-time since 2014. That’s long enough that while he appreciates the Peaks 2 Peak group’s efforts, and has spent plenty of his own time cleaning bags of trash and discarded needles from campsites, he is running out of patience. Hess believes that when it comes to the West Magnolia site, only a dusk-to-dawn closure of the area by the Forest Service can solve the issues there.
“It seems like it’s very much within their capability, but we know it’s low on the list” of the agency’s preferred tools, Hess said. “The unfortunate part is there’s a ton of great efforts out there to curb the (negative) activity. But we have the same discussions every year. There’s not enough resources to be reactive and constantly dealing with the same issue.”
Armstrong said a night closure of West Magnolia is not an option the Forest Service favors.
“Not every location on the district may be appropriate for camping and shutting down dispersed camping opportunities at West Magnolia is likely to push the use somewhere else, perhaps somewhere less appropriate,” she said.
“Last summer, with all the activity and patrols in the West Magnolia area, people were already moving to other areas to camp, and many of these areas haven’t been treated for hazardous fuels, don’t have cleared areas for tents or fire rings, haven’t been thinned. West Magnolia at least has these benefits. Look at where the Cold Springs Fire started last summer. … That’s the kind of areas people would be camping in if we closed down West Magnolia.”
Armstrong said the problem is not going to be solved in one year, or even two years, and that larger societal issues such as area-wide housing stresses play heavily into the equation.
Chris Current, executive director of the Nederland Food Pantry, said it is too soon to know whether any steps taken in the last 12 months will spell a safer summer of ’17.
“Cautious optimism,” Current said, describing her outlook. “It depends how it all comes together.
“We’ll also hope that we don’t have a bad fire season. It’s why you don’t find anybody complaining about the snow. I had 16 inches” last weekend at her home in Black Hawk, she said. “It was wonderful.”
Whatever the weather, Hall is convinced “it’s not going to be the same summer we have had in the past … There is a lot of energy right now that makes me feel confident that we can all play this game of whack-a-mole a little better.”
It’s the same bunch of footloose scumbags causing problems inside the City of Boulder who travel on to Nederland and continue their sociopathic behavior there. It seems to me that Boulder would be a better neighbor if we STOPPED ENABLING the worst-behaved transients. If Boulder nonprofits would require a valid photo ID with a Boulder County address and proof of at least one year’s residency, Marijuana Travelers and other riffraff couldn’t gear up and stock up on provisions to move on to the forests west of here.