Is the town of Eagle ready for a campground?
Base Camp Eagle project is proposing an RV and tent campground on Brush Creek Road, and drawing out both supporters and opponents
EAGLE — Depending on who you ask, Base Camp Eagle would be a good campground or a bad campground. Something the town of Eagle has needed for years, or something it needs somewhere else, if anywhere at all.
A few dozen residents have so far come out on all sides of the Base Camp project that’s being proposed for 10 acres of a 13.5-acre property at 3220 Brush Creek Road.
The property is currently a fenced pasture for some mules and a horse, with a pair of houses out back. Town plans show it will some day be loosely surrounded on three sides by the neighborhoods and open space of Haymeadow development, and the 830-plus homes Eagle town officials have approved on those agricultural lands along Brush Creek.
Shawn and Marci Colby are asking town officials to annex and rezone their property and approve a special use permit to allow their proposed seasonal campground.
The campground would include 29 sites for RVs, 20 sites for tents or vans, and four group sites, each with two tent pads — and potentially, at some later date, four cabins that would be built in a future phase. It would be open seasonally, from April to November, in line with wildlife closures on area open space.
According to the proposal, electric service would be run to each site to avoid generator noise, while stays would be limited to 14 days. Landscaping and berms would help shield the campground from neighboring properties, and include a small orchard for guests to pick fruit in season. And all lighting for the facility would be dark-sky compliant.
The project got a recommendation for approval from Eagle’s advisory planning and zoning commission in March and was presented to the Town Council with a public hearing on April 13. Council members continued the request to May 11 to give the town’s staff some more time to negotiate annexation details.
An idea years in the making
Shawn Colby said the idea to open a campground came to him a few summers ago. He was spending a lot of time on public lands surrounding Eagle and seeing the damage from heavy dispersed camping, especially along Bellyache Ridge and Hardscrabble Road. That got him thinking about when he used to live downtown, seeing events lead to camping in town parks and parking lots, and hearing people say the town needed for more formal camping options for visitors.
“So we kind of had the idea that maybe this property would be a good place for that for the community,” Colby said.
Colby initially explored a project with Kampgrounds of America, which offers to help with planning and permitting. But the minimum size and density for a KOA project is 10 acres and 110 sites.
“We weren’t interested in that kind of density,” said Colby, an RV camper himself who intends to keep living on the Brush Creek property. “Our goal really became to try to design something that had the spacing we would like to see when we go camping, and something that would be a lot more respectful to the Brush Creek area. Something we would like to visit and something we would be comfortable living among.”
The project has generated comments for and against it. Colby’s two neighbors have said they are against the proposal. Cody Scott, who lives on the other side of Brush Creek Road, adjacent to the site, joined the Town Council’s last meeting on Zoom from his dining room and pointed out his window.
“I can actually see Shawn’s barn from here,” Scott told the Town Council. “So first I want to say, Shawn, I love being your neighbor. You’re a great neighbor, but I 100% oppose this.”
At the meeting, Scott raised his concerns about increased traffic that will come from turning the agricultural property into 53 campsites, the flow of people into and out of the campground, and the impacts that activity will have on wildlife and neighbors on Brush Creek Road.
Other neighbors directly across the road have expressed “grave concerns” about the location of the proposed campground in written comments to the town. They weighed in at the last Town Council meeting through an attorney, Erik Carlson, of Denver.
Carlson pointed to the town’s planning for the Haymeadow PUD, with its low-density housing, open space and wildlife corridors in the area to maintain the “country lane experience” on Brush Creek Road.
“All of that will be wiped out by this application,” Carlson told the Town Council members. “According to the (campground) management plan, which permits six people per campsite, there could be over 300 people on any given day, with 96 vehicle parking spaces, 53 campfires, the noise, the odor, I think the list goes on.”
Carlson added that the rural residential zone being requested for the property, without the special use permit for the campground, would allow only six single-family homes on the property. “All of this really tells us that this is not the right project, it’s not the right location, it’s not the right density, and it fails to meet the approval criteria in the code,” he said.
Not everyone’s opposed
Others, however, seem to be more positive about the possibility of a campground on Brush Creek Road. Haymeadow — the neighbor Colby was most apprehensive about reaching out to initially — has spoken in support of the campground, and offered to help him connect it to the popular Haymaker mountain bike trail on the other side of Haymeadow.
While some people raise concerns about the campfire’s density, traffic, noise, wildlife impacts, and smoke and fire risk from fire pits, others point out the harms dispersed camping is having on surrounding public lands, and the risk of people having fires on those lands. Sylvan Lake and Yeoman Park campgrounds are often booked months in advance, they say, and a formal campground with an on-site manager could benefit the events and outdoor recreation opportunities the town has been working to expand for years.
Some supporters have also pointed out how the proposed campground would be owned by a life-long Eagle local who would continue to live on the site himself.
“I am totally in support of this project,” Kevin Brubeck, a former council member who toured the property, told the Town Council. “It’s a piece of infrastructure we don’t have right now … I believe the operators will be phenomenal. This is where they were brought up and where their reputation stands. I am 100% behind the project.”
The Hardscrabble Trails Coalition has also weighed in. In its comment letter, it says the project proposes to provide needed RV parking and camping close to town, trailheads and public lands, with owners who are currently working with it and other partners to provide trail connections from the campground to other trails and open space in the Brush Creek Valley.
“We do see a big need for camping in Eagle,” said Robert Tadlock, president of the coalition, which works to maintain and improve non-motorized trails around Eagle and Gypsum.
“I don’t think any of us are saying this is not going to have any negative impacts … But weighing it all out we just felt like it would be a net positive,” Tadlock said. “All of us who live in this valley are impact. My house is built on what used to be a working ranch with lots of open space for wildlife. It’s a balance, and we need to manage growth. We want it to be well thought out, with trail connections and walkability.”
Colby said he has worked to design the project to reduce the campground’s impact on neighbors, wildlife and roads, and to provide a quality experience for campers, pointing out that Base Camp Eagle is requesting only about one-quarter of the density the town code allows for campgrounds and RV parks.
Colby said he respects his neighbors concerns. But he also feels like the proposed campground is an amenity the town needs. And while some people argue a campground should be closer to some other parts of town, large lots are hard to come by, expensive and difficult to make a campground pencil out, Colby said.
Previous campground ideas have all fizzled out, even as the need has grown, Colby said, and he’s convinced he’s sitting on a great spot to serve as a base camp for people visiting Eagle for events or outdoor recreation for a day or for a week or two: It’s flat, it can link up to trails and it has a great view of New York Mountain to boot. “I recognize this change would be difficult for my neighbors, but it would be such an amenity for the town,” Colby said. “If you were going to come pick a place to stay, you couldn’t script a place like this, even if some people don’t agree.”
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.