Paintball damage in Frisco cleaned up |

Paintball damage in Frisco cleaned up

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk About a dozen lean-to's and wooden barricades like the one shown in this photo were constructed during paintball play on National Forest land near Frisco, causing the U.S. Forest Service to open an investigation. Sometime during the last few days, the barricades were disassembled and the deadfall spread around the area.

FRISCO – The national forest property near Frisco, where paintball play caused the U.S. Forest Service to open an investigation Tuesday, has been cleaned up.

The dozen lean-to’s used in the game as barricades were disassembled and property that had been left in the forest has been removed.

Despite the fact it rained Tuesday night and snowed Wednesday, paint splotches remain on dozens of trees in the area, and paint balls or pieces of paint balls are still laying on the forest floor – although there are many fewer than the hundreds strewn about a few days ago.

On Tuesday, the Dillon Ranger District opened an investigation into forest damage resulting from paintball play in the area, located a few hundred yards from the Peaks Trail in Frisco.

The office had received several calls about paintball play that resulted in wooden barricades, a plastic fence and a small table being left in the forest. Dozens of trees were marred with paint marks and paint balls lay on the forest floor.

Paintball is a sport growing in popularity where teams of players engage in a game similar to tag but use guns called “markers” that shoot balls of vegetable-based paint.

Agency officials said the investigation was opened because several regulations appeared to have been violated at the Frisco site, including damaging a natural feature or property of the U.S., constructing any kind of structure, fence or enclosure and abandoning personal property.

Fines start at $200 per violation, but Ken Waugh, district recreation staff officer with the Dillon Ranger District, said fines in the Frisco situation could range from $500 to $5,000.

While several of the violations at the Frisco site appear to have been eradicated through a cleanup that occurred sometime in the last few days, a remaining issue involves damage to the forest.

Paintball players claim that one rain or snow will erase traces of paint left behind on forest rocks and trees because the paint balls are biodegradable.

But Waugh said paint that remains in the forest after the game is the same as litter or graffiti and constitutes damage.

“The paint balls themselves sometimes don’t explode so they end up on the ground,” Waugh said. “The paint itself is biodegradable but it takes time. Until however long it takes to biodegrade, the paint is on the rocks and trees.”

Waugh offered the example of an aluminum can thrown on the ground.

“Well that’s biodegradable, as it will be gone in 50 years but in the meantime it’s still a can on the ground; it’s still litter,” Waugh said.

The investigation is ongoing but Waugh said he received a call Wednesday from one person who had played at the Frisco site. Apparently someone from the local Forest Service office had told the paintball player the activity was OK as long as holes were not dug in the ground.

“We’ve had several calls about this and we tell them they can’t dig holes or leave behind litter and paint,” Waugh said. “So apparently there was a communication breakdown.”

The first level of enforcement in dealing with violations is education, Waugh said.

“The violation notice is issued when someone knowingly does something wrong,” he said. “The first part of enforcement is education and the Forest Service has not done that with this community.”

The agency’s law enforcement officer was not available for an interview Thursday, but Waugh said individuals will probably be educated first and if the activity continues, tickets will be issued.

“Short-term litter is still litter; short-term paint on trees is still paint on trees,” Waugh said. “People get one warning and if they still do it they will probably get the ticket.”

Waugh, who suggests taking water into the woods to scrub trees and rocks clean of paint after play, said the man he spoke to Wednesday said cleaning up the paint would be too much work.

“The best thing to do would be for them to find a place off the national forest,” Waugh said. “Maybe we can come to terms with a place where they can do this. I’ve heard there are other areas adjacent to private land in Summit County (where paintball is played). Obviously this is not a problem we will solve overnight.”

Waugh recommended that paintball players form a club, elect a representative and open a dialogue with the Forest Service if they want to play on public land.

“This is not a problem unique to this area, so we need to do some research,” Waugh said. “If it’s a recreation activity people want to do, we need to work with them and help find another place for them to do it.”

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