Tourism, recreation committee members appointed

New group to tackle visitation ‘sustainability’ issues

By Alan Wartes

On one point there is little disagreement: The number of tourists visiting the Gunnison Valley in recent years has increased dramatically — and it’s likely to keep growing — bringing a variety of challenges and impacts to the landscape and community.

On Tuesday, Gunnison County Commissioners formally convened the county’s new Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee, made up of 13 representatives of local agencies, governments and organizations as well as eight “at-large” community members. The action officially disbanded the Gunnison Trails Commission.

During last year’s One Valley Prosperity Project (OVPP), one topic of concern which arose in community discussions was the growing negative impact of tourism — both from the sheer number of people visiting the valley and the kind of activities they pursue. It was recognized that local recreational use also contributes to recent pressure on Gunnison Valley landscapes.

An OVPP working group formed specifically to focus on that issue — and they recommended forming the new group as a way to “provide responsible stewardship to ensure recreation and tourism use does not exceed carrying capacity,” according to a goal stated on the OVPP website.

The new committee’s charter states, “When real or perceived threats to the quality of the experience on public lands occur, a conflict may arise causing us to question the value of our tourism economy. As the popularity of our community increases, we need to accommodate and sustainably manage both residents and visitors for the long term.”

To ensure the committee will have the ability to act on various initiatives quickly and efficiently, the group’s charter is modelled after the Gunnison Basin Sage-grouse Strategic Committee. That means representatives from relevant stakeholder groups have authority from their parent organizations to implement the committee’s proposals.

The group consists of 13 permanent member organizations and their representatives: Gunnison County: John Messner; City of Gunnison: Mallory Logan; Town of Crested Butte: Paul Merck; Town of Mt. Crested Butte: Nicholas Kempin; Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Chris Parmeter; U.S. Forest Service: Matt McCombs; Bureau of Land Management: Elijah Waters; National Park Service: Bruce Noble; Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association: John Norton; Gunnison County Stockgrowers' Association: Bruce Allen; and Crested Butte Mountain Resort: Erica Mueller. Representatives from Western State Colorado University and the Town of Pitkin are yet to be determined.

In addition, commissioners appointed eight “at-large” members to the committee — selecting the following people out of 19 applicants: Dave Ochs, Ben Breslauer, Christie Hicks, Kevin Alexander, Tim Kugler, Navid Navidi, Noel Durant and Joellen Fonken.

“That group of people brings a broad base of experience and knowledge to the table,” said Commissioner Phil Chamberland. “I was excited to see so many applicants.”


(Alan Wartes can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or

Gunnison Country Times

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