Summit County campgrounds set to open | VailDaily.com

Summit County campgrounds set to open

Bob Berwyn
Summit County, Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Now that timber crews have removed nearly all the beetle-killed trees, U.S. Forest Service rangers said all but one of Summit County’s major campgrounds will be open this summer.

Blue River campground, north of Silverthorne, will remain closed this summer for more tree removal.

The campground openings are good news for campers who were stymied by closures last year. The Forest Service kept many local campgrounds closed while rangers scrambled to keep up with the pine-beetle epidemic. The dead trees are prone to falling over and created a significant hazard.

Thousand Trails, the private company operating the camping areas under contract from the Forest Service, also took a hit last year, as about half the campsites in the county stayed closed all summer.

Most of the hazardous trees are now gone, although the agency is still cautioning campers and hikers to be aware of the potential for falling trees along some trails.

Some campground operators in the state said business could boom this summer, as consumers look for low-cost vacation alternatives.

Heaton Bay campground opened for the season Friday.

“We had two people waiting at the gate to get in when we opened at 8:45 this morning,” said Terry Hunt, in his fourth year as the manager at Heaton Bay. “Usually, we open at 1 p.m., but we opened a little early today.”

Hunt said the basic camping fee at Heaton Bay is $17 this year, with an extra $5 charge for sites with power. The campground has 81 sites total, with one loop reserved for tents only.

Leeann Knop of Denver and her boyfriend, Evan Tuley, were among the first to land a prime lakeside spot.

“I’ve been camping up here for years,” Knop said. “I love being by the water.”

“It’s a little disappointing that it’s all clear-cut like this,” Tuley said, tightening up the rain fly on the couple’s tent before heading to Frisco in search of a fishing pole.

Although most of the tall lodgepoles died and were cut down, plenty of young saplings are sprouting up in the cleared areas.

Green Mountain Reservoir

Two campgrounds at Green Mountain Reservoir are also open: McDonald Flats and Eliot Creek. The Forest Service hopes to open Prairie Point and Cow Creek North and South and the Willows by Memorial Day.

Camping fees at Green Mountain Reservoir will remain unchanged this year. The Forest Service wanted to raise rates to cover the cost of improvements, staffing and maintenance, but a citizen advisory group put the plan on hold, pending a site visit sometime this summer.

The big change at Green Mountain Reservoir is a restriction on boat launching and a prohibition on vehicles below the high-water line. State and federal officials are trying to prevent an invasion of destructive mussels by limiting boat-launching to sites subject to inspections. For now, the only authorized place to launch a trailered boat is at the Heeney Marina.

Forest Service ranger Ken Waugh said there are plans to open several additional boat launching sites in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Boaters are still allowed to carry smaller boats and rafts down to the reservoir from parking areas above the high-water line.

The Forest Service also hopes to open Peak One campground, on the Frisco Peninsula, by Memorial Day.

“Prospector and Windy Point are still being logged. We’re trying to get them open by June 15,” said Forest Service ranger Howard Scott.

Much of the logging was done during the winter, to minimize the impacts of logging and tree removal.

“It looks great for a timber sale,” Scott said.