BLM’s acting director enthusiastic about plans for Radium site
The Radium Recreation Site looked nearly full Friday afternoon with trailers parked back to back and swimsuit-clad rafters climbing in and out of the Colorado River.
The high-use facility southwest of Kremmling is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as a popular put in and take out site for rafting and fishing on the Upper Colorado River. That’s why Kremmling Field Office officials brought the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, William Perry Pendley, to Radium.
Officials explained to Pendley that the area was in need of some major improvements during his visit Friday. Recreation Planner John Monkouski gestured to the nearly full parking lot.
“For a Friday this is actually pretty mellow for what we have seen,” he said.
The reason Friday may not have been as busy as usual became clear as rain began dumping down during the conversation with Pendley.
Huddled under one of the boat launch canopies, Monkouski and Kremmling Field Manager Bill Mills continued their descriptions of the proposed improvements for the Radium site, which happens to include two additional shade structures.
Other maintenance planned for Radium includes replacing the three aging restrooms, adding better changing rooms, enhancing group sites and parking, creating additional campground sites including one that will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, paving an ADA compliant sidewalk, and widening access roads.
“The opportunity to get to do some big work here is really, really important to us as we try to execute our recreation management plan,” Mills said.
The proposed deferred maintenance project is noteworthy for the Kremmling Field Office at a time when public lands funding has recently been infused with guaranteed dollars thanks to the Great American Outdoors Act. President Donald Trump signed it into law in early August.
The act passed through the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support and guarantees funding for public lands in two ways. It requires that the Land and Water Conservation Fund be fully funded — which has not always been the case — along with providing an additional $1.9 billion per year for five years to address the backlog of maintenance on public lands.
“Essentially that means funding things like (the Radium improvements) that Congress never gave us the money to take care of,” Pendley said.
During his visit, Pendley highlighted the Trump administration’s emphasis on recreation. The push for outdoors funding has become a platform for the president’s campaign this year with the administration highlighting the outdoors as a place of “healing” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While national parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park, shut down due to the pandemic, Pendley pointed out how BLM implemented changes to stay open and accessible to the public.
“One of the lessons we learned during COVID is that while everybody else shut down, the Bureau of Land Management stayed open,” he said.
The Upper Colorado River sees roughly 90,000 visitors per year and Monkouski said that this year visits have exploded — though numbers haven’t been finalized.
The increased use of BLM land shows how important these upgrades will be for many recreation sites.
“What we saw during the virus was a huge number of people coming to places like this,” Pendley said. “People have discovered the Bureau of Land Management and they’re going to come even more.”
The acting director was impressed by the beauty of the area hidden about a half hour outside Kremmling. He looked forward to seeing the improvements come to fruition.
“I’m so pumped about your plans,” Pendley told the Kremmling Office representatives. “I can’t wait to come back next year.”