The Chaffee Recreation Council releases a county-wide recreation report today that includes analysis of a resident and visitor opinion survey administered by Envision Chaffee County.
The report was developed by the council using indicators and grades to show current trends relative to three community goals to achieve as the county grows: 1. Sustain the economic benefits of recreation tourism; 2. Maintain healthy forests, waters, wildlife and working lands and 3. Retain exceptional multi-use outdoor experiences.
Natural resources received the lowest score due to negative trends in forest health and declining wildlife populations related in part to recreation use.
Thousands of survey responses show that half of residents and a third of visitors believe their outdoor experiences have declined due to the negative impacts of growing use, citing “over-use” and “irresponsible” use as the top reasons.
Outdoor use grew by an estimated 13% a year from 2015 to 2019, according to an analysis of visitor spending for the Colorado Tourism Office, which also indicates that up to 4 million people are visiting the county annually.
Travelers spent $128 million in Chaffee County last year, according to the CTO data, contributing to a 53% increase in tourism activity since 2016 and $8.6 million in additional wages and business income during that time. Data is not yet available for 2020, but anecdotal information from public land and city recreation managers indicate a step change in growth occurred during the pandemic this summer.
“Everyone who lives and visits here treasures the stunning, unspoiled Colorado landscapes and amazing outdoor recreation,” Envision co-lead Cindy Williams said. “The new Chaffee Recreation Report shows that Chaffee County is not on the path to retain these exceptional natural assets and experiences, due to insufficient planning and resources to manage that rapid growth.”
The report shows that agency funding per recreation user has declined 40% since 2016.
Go to envisionchaffeecounty.org/recreation-in-balance/ to read the Chaffee Recreation Report, find more information about the survey results, and learn how to get involved in the planning process.