Leave No Trace spotlights recreation impacts on Berthoud

As part of the Leave No Trace Hot Spot Program, traveling trainers guide a snowshoe hike, one of 10 events highlighting recreation effects on Berthoud Pass.
McKenna Harford / Sky-Hi News

Within the first 100 feet of a snowshoe hike with Leave No Trace and the Headwaters Trails Alliance earlier this month, the pristine beauty of Berthoud Pass’s Second Creek Trail was marred by dog waste, both bagged and not.

It was a perfect example of what prompted Leave No Trace and Headwaters Trails Alliance to partner for a week of educational events focusing on the impacts of increased recreation to the Berthoud area through the Hot Spot Program.

According to Leave No Trace, the Hot Spot Program identifies areas around the country that are experiencing severe human-related consequences which could be helped by applying Leave No Trace principles, like picking up litter and waste, as well as trail etiquette.

With Grand County Tourism reporting an average of 2.5 million visitors to the county each year, Erin Collier, a Leave No Trace traveling trainer, explained small things can pile up quickly.

“Thinking about litter … at 2.5 million, it’s all adding up,” Collier said. “We all want to do the right thing, so it’s just knowing what the right thing is. Those things add up too.”

Berthoud’s top issues include dog and human waste impacts, litter, improper parking and wildlife encounters, Brice Esplin, also a Leave No Trace traveling trainer, said.

A bag of dog waste hangs from a tree on the Second Creek Trail on Feb. 13. Animal and human waste is one of the biggest negative effects of recreation in the area.
Brice Esplin / Courtesy photo

Not only do those concerns negatively affect the recreational experience, but they can harm resources like water. Berthoud Pass is within the Colorado River Watershed, which supplies approximately 40 million people with water, according to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“That water goes so far downstream to so many people that it has a big effect,” Esplin said.

Additionally, vegetation is harmed by waste and trash, while food litter can attract wildlife, increasing the chance of human interactions and impacting their habits.

“When these impacts are out there, it also affects each other’s perceptions of the area,” Esplin said. “(There’s) both ecological damage that it’s doing but also social damage to other visitors.”

As part of the Hot Spot Program, Esplin and Collier hosted 10 events and spoke to more than 500 adults and children about Leave No Trace principles, which help protect against negative human impacts.

A lenticular cloud hangs over Berthoud Pass on Feb. 13 during a Leave No Trace snowshoe hike on Second Creek Trail.
McKenna Harford / Sky-Hi News

The seven Leave No Trace principles are to plan ahead and prepare; travel and camp in appropriate and durable places; dispose of waste and litter properly; leave what’s found; practice fire safety and minimize campfire impacts; respect wildlife; and be considerate of others.

Another element of the Hot Spot Program is building a plan to address some of the more severe impacts in the area with local stakeholders, like the Headwaters Trails Alliance and the US Forest Service. Long-term plans for the area include getting specific trail counts on Berthoud, while educational signage is planned for the more near term.

“We’re hoping to give HTA and the Forest Service some tools on communicating about these issues to visitors on the pass,” Esplin said. “We’re looking forward to a lot of the educational pieces that will come from that.”


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