Leaks, busted pipes crimp camping fun as Forest Service and new concessionaire try to repair leaks and wells before July 4th
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — U.S. Forest Service recreation managers in Summit County are once again struggling with operational issues, as extensive damage to water systems left all the local campgrounds — totaling several hundred campsites — without water over Memorial Day weekend.
Additionally, a key Forest Service well that supplies water to campgrounds on the south side of Dillon Reservoir is in danger of running dry.
The water table the Lowry Well is down 50 feet, likely due to the drought. The same well went dry during the 2002 drought, but Forest Service officials hope it will deliver water through the bulk of the busy summer season.
“We now have water at Heaton Bay only,” said Howard Scott, longtime manager of developed recreation for the Dillon Ranger District.
And because so much of the Forest Service budget has been focused on beetle-kill mitigation, the recreation budgets are tight.
“Due to our budget challenges, we didn’t have any funds set aside for emergencies,” Scott said.
All other campgrounds besides Heaton Bay are still without potable water and arriving campers must bring their own. The outage also hits the campgrounds that have flush toilets, where Porta-potties have been set up instead.
As well, RV travelers aren’t able to fill their tanks when they arrive at local camping venues.
“They like to arrive empty and fill up, but that’s not possible right now,” Scott said, adding that the campgrounds — operated by a private company under concession from the Forest Service — are supposed to drop their rates if there’s no water available.
Scott said crews are working on the water problems daily and hope to have service restored by the busy July 4 weekend.
The operation of the campgrounds was taken over by a new company this year under a 10-year contract. The company is called White River Recreation, a Colorado subsidiary of California Land Management, which runs many Forest Service campgrounds in the western U.S.
The previous concessionaire, Thousand Trails, apparently didn’t complete required pre-winter maintenance on the water systems.
“We found a couple of drains that hadn’t been drained. They froze and broke,” Scott said. “As soon as we correct one campground, we find problems in another one.” In one case, tree-planting crews may have accidentally cut a water line, he added.
Up until this year, the Peak One campground, a popular spot near Frisco, has never had a catastrophic water failure, but this spring, water started bubbling up through the ground when operators turned the system on. Scott said it appears that a water main has broken at that campground.
Lowry Campground, up on Swan Mountain Road, serves as the primary source for the camping areas on the south side of Dillon Reservoir, including the Prospector and Windy Pint group campground — both are without water as of mid-June.
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