VAIL, Colorado - When people camp too close to Piney River, they damage it. That's going on at the popular Vail, Colorado-area camping spot.
Starting Monday, camping will close on a two-mile stretch along the river - from the outlet of Piney Lake to the forest service bridge on road 701 - so workers can fix the stream. Camping will reopen Aug. 29.
It's important to fix the river so trout don't eventually leave the habitat, officials say.
Camping too close to the stream causes several problems, said Matt Grove, a fish biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. People trample willows along the water's edge. That's bad because plants hold the bank together and keep sediment from sliding into the water.
Also, people cut down trees along the river for firewood, he said. That's a problem because the trees don't die and fall into the water, providing cover for trout, he said.
Also troubling for the stream, several unofficial roads have formed when campers go off-roading in their cars. Roads hurt the stream because they mow down plants that normally absorb water and prevent sediment from flowing into the stream. If too much sediment flows into the river, it can change the bugs that live there. That can cut down on the food supply for the trout.
There's a plan to fix the river. The forest service and a nonprofit called the Eagle River Watershed Council in Avon will launch a restoration project.
Workers will add plants along the steam, spread native grass seeds on campsites that don't comply with forest service goals and put beetle kill pine in the river so trout can use it for cover, Grove said.
Melissa Macdonald, executive director of the watershed council, said she's looking for volunteers to help with fencing off campsites that are too close to the water. Volunteers would work the week of Aug. 24. Contact her at 970-827-5406.
The area in question isn't an official campground. On a given weekend, Grove estimates 15 to 20 dispersed campsites appear along the stretch. Once the stream project wraps up, camping will be allowed in the area, Grove said.
However, he asks people to camp more than 100 feet away from the water. The road up to Piney Lake will remain open during the project, he said.
The stream rehabilitation project will cost about $75,000, Grove estimated. The Eagle River Watershed Council received a $40,000 grant to cover the materials.