Breckenridge considers town-owned, town-managed campground off Airport Road
December 24, 2017
After years of talking about it, Breckenridge is finally getting serious about building a town-owned campground within walking distance of downtown businesses.
Discussions at the Dec. 12 council meeting, along with a memo from Breckenridge Director of Recreation Scott Reid, revealed what such a campground might look like, along with a few amenities, some concerns and a possible location.
"For several years, the idea of an in-town campground has been discussed, but not highly prioritized by town council," states Reid's memo to council, sent on Dec. 4 as a primer for the ensuing Dec. 12 discussion.
Under council's direction, town staff gathered information from other municipally owned campgrounds in places like Telluride, Golden and Lyons, according to Reid's memo. However, the idea for a town-owned, town-operated campground in Breckenridge has come up off and on throughout the years.
A vision plan adopted by town council in August 2002 mentions a campground "in proximity" to Breckenridge as one desired amenity, like a disc golf course or equestrian center, that could improve the quality of life here.
Five years later, an open space plan again referenced campgrounds, among other items, as an "additional facility" suitable for open space in Breckenridge that should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
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There are more mentions of possible campgrounds in Breckenridge's agendas and meetings throughout the years, but more recently Mayor Eric Mamula revived the issue by asking town staff to revisit the idea during a town council meeting earlier this year.
In response, Reid crafted the memo lying out what town staff feel would be a best-case scenario for a town-owned campground, including a possible location and operational model.
In the memo, Reid contends any such campground should be kept small, no more than 20 campsites, with gravel pads, fire rings and one picnic table per site. He says staff are open to making the parking spaces big enough for small campers or trailers up to 30 feet long, but the campground itself wouldn't necessarily have all those hookups, at least not initially.
Furthermore, the campground should be within town limits, "substantially closer to downtown than the existing U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and dispersed campsites," according to the memo. However, staff also want to hide it from view off Highway 9 and other major roads. Some walk-in tent sites are being considered, and the town is thinking about a seven-day limit, a move designed to prevent long-term stays and promote turnover.
The campsites could be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis, likely in the ballpark of $25 to $50 a night, according to the memo, which also suggests that some kind of reservation system, if only for some of the campsites, might be worth evaluating.
Drinkable water, restrooms and trash service would be provided. The campground should be "easily operated," Reid wrote in the memo, which presents the question of showers as a topic of discussion.
"Nothing is clear cut at this point," he told council during the meeting. "We just want to see if we're aiming the right direction."
Given those perimeters, council discussed the topic for more than 10 minutes before agreeing to commit up to $15,000 for a feasibility study, conceptual design and more accurate cost estimate for council's consideration.
Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said she could foresee the need for a propane refilling and billing location, and asked staff to look into it.
Other questions hinged on a site manager, including if it would be a volunteer position, a seasonal town-hired position or if management services for the campground would be contracted out to a private company. Reid estimates the campsite would require two, full-time seasonal employees.
The memo also identifies a handful of concerns that shouldn't be overlooked, such as the limited supply of flat ground in Breckenridge, the campground's visibility, operational costs and potential effect on competition, and the relatively short camping season, generally from mid-May to mid-October.
Based on the pros and cons of all the sites considered, town staff narrowed their focus down to one town-owned piece of land next to the Public Works Department's "boneyard" on Iowa Hill, a relatively flat parcel off Airport Road.
The campground would be mostly out of sight there, according to Reid, but close enough to existing water, sewer and electric utilities that the town could easily tap into them, should they want to provide those services.
The proposed campground site also sits along an existing bus route, is close to the town core and would be easy to monitor for the police and public works departments, according to Reid.
Public Works supports the proposed location, he noted in the memo, but would "need to tidy up" a bit and install a privacy fence prior to construction of any campground there.
"Of the other potential campground sites evaluated, several remain feasible but are considered less desirable at this time because they do not offer the same mix of site characteristics," Reid concluded in the memo.