More munitions found at Camp Hale
Those mines were destroyed Tuesday by explosives experts from Ft. Carson.
“People can walk in as long as they stay on roads and trails,” said the U.S. Forest Service’s Dave Van Norman. “It’s very dangerous.”
That closure will last until the ground freezes and a foot of snow falls, cushioning any remaining munitions. It will be closed again in spring.
More troubling to the Forest Service is the land mines were neatly stacked next to the public road accessing the area near a rifle range.
The 60-year-old munitions become unstable with age, and Van Norman wants to find out who put them there so he can find out where they came from.
“There weren’t supposed to be any tanks out here, according to historical records,” he said.
With successive freeze-and-thaw cycles over the past two years, all types of munitions buried at the 250,000-acre Camp Hale, including:
– Rifle grenades.
– Mortar rounds.
– Anti-tank and anti-personnel mines.
– Bazooka rocket.
– A 155mm artillery round.
A total of 18 potentially explosive devices have been found.
Nearly 15,000 men trained at Camp Hale from 1941-45, including the elite 10th Mountain Division that saw action in Italy’s Appenine Mountains.
As many as one in 10 World War II explosive devices were duds.
Since it was given to the Forest Service in 1965, the former army base has become a popular year-round recreation area.
“A tremendous number of people use the area,” Van Norman said.
Camp Hale is one of several thousand formerly used defense sites, or FUDs, competing for federal cleanup money, said Jeff Edson of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
He said $1.5 million was spent last year at Camp Hale. Most of that was used developing an archival research report on what was used where and the likelihood of finding munitions. But the discovery of more munitions will likely prompt the state agency to enlarge its funding request to the federal government.
“This is a huge site. It’s hard to predict a cost,” he said. “We need ample funding for clearing the surface. The East Fork is a priority for us.”
The problem is the competition for dollars,” he said. “The FUDs budget doesn’t get the attention it needs.”
Edson said the federal FUDS budget totaled $214 million last year.
Two summers ago specially trained foot patrols swept portions of Camp Hale and found more munitions. Some of those were near the Continental Divide Trail that crosses Camp Hale.
For the Forest Service, the challenge is keeping people at Camp Hale and munitions separate. It’s a daunting task
Last week munitions were discovered and destroyed, and the Forest Service had to alert hunters camped in a closed area that explosive devices had been discovered near their camp sites.
“People aren’t reading the signs,” said Van Norman.
And the munitions create other issues. Last summer, for example, a fire crew dispatched to extinguish a small lightning fire smoldering near Tennessee Pass, discovered some munitions in the area and had to call in munitions experts before snuffing the blaze.
Van Norman, however, would like to have the person who stacked the mines by the roadside call him at 827-5159.
“He can do it anonymously,” he said. “We’d like to know where they came from.”
Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.