Take Only Memories, Leave Only Footprints

By Graham Coffey

 Summer/Fall 2022

The U.S. Forest Service will be partnering with the San Juan Mountains Association once again this summer to help encourage visitors to Ice Lakes Basin to practice Leave No Trace principles when visiting the area.

The Ice Fire of October 2020 led to Ice Lakes Basin being closed last summer. When the area reopened on September 15th, SJMA volunteers staffed a pop-up tent at the South Mineral Falls trailhead for the following month. During the summer of 2022, SJMA volunteers will staff the trailhead starting in May and will be there every day until the peak season ends in September. 

Jed Botsford works as a natural resources specialist for the U.S. Forest Service in the Columbine Ranger District, of which Ice Lakes is a part. He says the area has seen positive results with volunteers in the South Mineral Falls parking lot.

SJMA staffed a tiny home with volunteers in 2019, but during 2020 they were not able to put volunteers at the trailhead due to the pandemic. “In 2020 when nobody was there, we were finding nails in fire pits, which indicates that people were taking apart historic structures and burning them. In 2021 we asked for volunteers to step up and we were fortunate to have volunteers that were willing to help out. There was a lot of education that went on with visitors that were coming into the area.” said Botsford.

The South Mineral Falls parking lot is a busy hub of activity, and Botsford says his organization is searching for a long-term plan that will help keep the area beautiful and allow everyone to recreate. “We do have a project for our fiscal year of 2022 to start doing a planning effort for the South Mineral Drainage that Ice Lakes falls into. We want to evaluate the best way to permit or regulate the use of Ice Lake Basin.”

We asked Botsford what recommendations he would give to those visitors who want to help keep the area pristine. “We really encourage people to camp in the lower basin instead of the upper basin because it doesn’t affect the alpine environment. We also want to encourage people to pack out their waste because it does not degrade in the alpine environment and it can be detrimental to some of the plant life up there.”

In addition to having volunteers at the trailhead, the Forest Service is working to get portable toilets in the parking lot. The hope is that the toilets will cut down even further on the amount of waste left behind.

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