Copper employees get ‘park-n-ride’
SUMMIT COUNTY – While it probably won’t get as rowdy as it did a few years ago when a group of Hell’s Angels gathered there, the would-be Forest Service campground at Officer’s Gulch will see a little bit of action over the next few weeks.The U.S. Forest Service has authorized Copper Mountain to use the area adjacent to Interstate 70, just a few miles west of Frisco, as a temporary over-flow employee parking lot for the rest of the busy spring ski season. The resort will manage the parking area, and has already set up a portable toilet, along with trash and recycling bins.”It’s great,” said Copper spokeswoman Lauren Pelletreau, who said she parked there last weekend. “They had coffee and muffins, and it’s just a short ride to the resort.”
With all the great snow this year, Copper has been busier than ever, and Pelletreau said the resort actually had to turn away a few disappointed guests just last weekend, as every last resort parking spot filled. Encouraging employees to park at Officer’s Gulch will open up just a few more spots for customers at the resort, she said. For now, a batch of signs on the gate could be slightly confusing for visitors, with some signs saying that non-motorized use is OK, while a “No Trespassing” sign seems to suggest that the area is not open to the public. The Forest Service plans to try and change the signage so that it’s clear that the public can still use the area, said Shelly Grail, snow ranger on the Dillon District.Parking has been an ongoing issue for Copper over the years. The resort once sought to pull off a land swap with the Forest Service to gain some additional land for parking on the east side of Highway 91. At other times, the resort has garnered criticism from local officials for roadside parking that could clog access for emergency vehicles. A new development plan for the base area, soon to be submitted to the county planning department, may help address the parking crunch.
Forest Service officials emphasized that the authorization for parking at Officer’s Gulch is only valid for a few more weeks this season. The use is not an unwarranted expansion of ski area activities on off-site parcels, they said.”If we want to do anything long-term, we’d have to negotiate with them,” said Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton, adding that the resort agreed to some cleanup at the area this summer.Under the White River National Forest plan, the area is managed under a scenic byways and travel corridor designation. Camping and parking use both fit under that allocation, said Forest Service lands specialist Paul Semmer.Semmer said the network of paved roads in the area was built by the Colorado Department of Transportation many years ago, during construction of I-70. At the time, the intent was to develop a full-fledged campground, but Forest Service funding issues dogged the plan since that time, and the campground never opened.
But the Forest Service has issued temporary permits to use the area, including for a Hell’s Angels campout a few years ago, as well as for Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado, a Front Range-based group that does major trail projects around the state.The name of the area does not refer to a military or police officer, but is based on the last name of an early resident and prospector who lived in the area in the late 1800s, according to the Summit Historical Society.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at email@example.com.
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