Campground in East Vail re-opens, sort of
VAIL ” A campground in East Vail will stay off limits to tents until the place is made more bear-resistant.
The Gore Creek Campground at the base of Vail Pass was closed entirely July 18 after a black bear broke into one vehicle, got into another and went into a tent. No humans or bears were injured in the incidents.
The campground re-opened July 22, but only to campers with hard-sided recreational vehicles. That can be everything from big trailers or motorhomes to conversion vans and campers that slide into the beds of pickup trucks.
The area remains off-limits to those in tents and pop-up campers. It will stay that way until the campground gets bear-resistant food boxes at all the camp sites. Those boxes could be in place by next season.
“We met with the Forest Service and Thousand Trails, and agreed they need to open it to just hard-sided campers until they get food boxes,” Bill Andree of the Colorado Division of Wildlife said.
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With the restrictions in place, Thousand Trails, the private firm that manages the campground, has taken a financial hit.
“Our income has gone from $1,500 or $1,600 a week down to $350 a week or so,” said Larry McAfee, area manager for Thousand Trails. “This has cut a group of customers out that’s very important to us.”
Closing the area to tents will be hard for the management company, but at least the area is partially open, Wettstein said.
“We just don’t feel we can take a chance with tents, and until we can get a handle on the bear problem, that’s what we’ll do,” Wettstein said.
“We had to take care of our customers,” McAfee added. “We can’t take a chance on somebody getting bitten.”
The Gore Creek campground isn’t the only one in the area off limits to tenters. Wettstein said the Difficult campground near Aspen is also restricted to hard-sided campers.
While tenters need to be careful about camping in bear country elsewhere in the area, Wettstein said the problems aren’t as pronounced in more remote areas.
“They’re more scattered out by Homestake, for instance,” Wettstein said. “Once they get habituated to a food source, like a town, they’re going to be there.”
With or without food boxes, McAfee said, campground managers and hosts need to do a better job educating campers who stay in bear country.
“We need to explain to people we’ve got to be careful with food, even the people in hard-sided RVs” McAfee said. To that end, campground hosts will talk about the area’s bears with everyone who buys a camping pass.
If people use them, the food boxes can help a lot, Wettstein said.
“They’ve been in use in Yosemite for years, and they don’t have many problems there,” he said, “It’s time we did it here.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or email@example.com.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado