Nude campers, violent assaults cause for concern at Pioneer Park; town considers action
Naked campers, litterers and transient assaults are just a few of the problems confronting town officials from Hot Sulphur Springs as they contemplate the future of Pioneer Park.
Pioneer Park in Hot Sulphur Springs is popular destination for campers, anglers and day recreators. The facility is owned by the town of Hot Sulphur Springs but is managed by Colorado Parks and wildlife as a State Wildlife Area. The park rests north of the Colorado River between the river and the base of Mount Bross, which overlooks the town of Hot Sulphur.
The park is broken down into two main sections. The smaller, south section, of the park lies just west of the Spring Road bridge over the Colorado River. The south section is predominately filled with large campsites as well as a small section along County Road 20 that provides fishing access to the Colorado River in Byers Canyon.
The larger north section extends roughly one-mile west of the junction of Spring Road and Railroad Avenue between the Colorado River and the Union Pacific railroad tracks. The north section contains several additional campsites as well as the park’s Frisbee golf course and most of the walking trails. The north section is also accessible via a footbridge over the Colorado located near the junction of Spruce Street and Maple Street.
Last Wednesday, the Hot Sulphur Board of Trustees held a public meeting to receive input from local citizens regarding perceived problems with Pioneer Park as well as any potential solutions. Multiple community members spoke out about the park, highlighting their concerns about improper or illegal behavior by park visitors.
One resident noted he recently chased a man out of the Colorado River who was wading naked through the water. Other stories included a woman who regularly bathes nude in the Colorado, another woman who was seen doing laundry in the flowing waters, homeless people camping out in the park long-term, violent assaults including a stabbing, and copious amounts of human waste, litter and garbage left by visitors.
Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy Luke McDonald provided a rundown of calls for response at Pioneer Park that were fielded by the sheriff’s office this summer. From May 1 through Sept. 6, Pioneer Park witnessed three domestic violence incidents, one disturbance, three code violations, three warrant related arrests, two assaults, three welfare checks and two calls to assist other agencies.
McDonald made a statement to the Trustees and meeting attendees that reflected the general feeling espoused by others who spoke out on the issue.
“Pioneer Park is not your problem,” McDonald said. “Transients are your problem.”
Community members and town trustees posited a range of potential solutions for dealing with ongoing concerns for Pioneer Park including charging a daily camping fee. Pioneer Park does not charge a fee for campers staying on the property though visitors are prohibited from staying more than 14 consecutive days.
Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Hot Sulphur Springs Office, took no position over proposals to institute a camping fee at Pioneer Park but did note such an action on the town’s part could impact the management agreement the town has with CPW.
“Can our relationship continue if you charge a fee?” Sidener asked rhetorically. “I don’t know. When we enter into leases for properties for hunting and fishing access we’re typically told you cannot charge a fee. Our constituents pay a fee when buying a fishing license.”
Hot Sulphur Springs Mayor Bob McVay informed attendees that the town would be closing the north section of Pioneer Park to vehicles and it would be accessible only to foot and bicycle traffic.
The Hot Sulphur Board took no formal action regarding the future of Pioneer Park last week. The issue will be back before the town board Sept. 20 during their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. The board meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Hot Sulphur Springs Town Hall.
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