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Wreck Rangers focuses on second season visitor education

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The Chaffee Recreation Ranger program goes into full swing this summer, with eight seasonal full-time staff patrolling Chaffee County’s public lands.

The program was launched in 2021 under the Chaffee Recreation Council to address the surge in visitors as the budget for public land was flat.

Lia Hovezak is a new ranger in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA), and funding from the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau has enabled her position. Her main task is to monitor dispersed camps and educate visitors along the river corridors in the state park.

“I talk to everyone I see,” she said, frequently informing about rules such as the need to use portable toilets and hot pots when camping along the river. “Tell them if they’re not doing everything right, and what’s right, because they usually just don’t know.” According to Hovezak and other rangers, with human waste. Garbage disposal is a hot topic. How to make a campfire safe, requirements to comply with the 14-day stay limit, where to park and set up your camp.

Brian Marek, a recreation ranger at the Land Management Agency (BLM), said: “They drive past bare land into the woods, looking for new places to camp and destroying more irreversible vegetation.”

The Royal GorgeFiled Office, which controls BLM public land in Chaffee County, estimates that visitors have increased by 42% since the start of the pandemic.

In a conversation about ethics and rules, Marek is willing to follow, although some visitors initially disagree, but understand that there are regulations to protect the value of resources. Said that it could be.

According to Glenn Cottone, senior ranger at AHRA, this kind of pre- and post-discussion is more effective than signs. “One-on-one education is best, and funding for this program offers that opportunity.”

According to Cotton, within AHRA, the focus is on campsite patrols with two new rangers dispersed, allowing other staff to focus on boat ramps, boat safety, and paid campsite management. It has become. The program began with a two-year grant from the Chaffee Common Ground Fund, which was awarded to the US Forest Office Salida Ranger District to manage four rangers. This year, four more funds were paid from the Visitors Bureau. The agency recruits, hires, trains and manages staff and supplies vehicles and equipment.

Both Hovezak and Malek said that explicit rule violations occur, which are not standard. Hovezak’s worst cleanup was a trash-filled, collapsed eight-person tent. Until someone leaves a trash bag full of human dung in the Big Bend vault.
Marek said he spends a lot of time on BLM’s land to enforce stay restrictions. If there is no camper, he leaves a tent tag and an information flyer. The leaflet has a 14-day limit and the property cannot be left unattended for more than 48 hours. He said the material informs the visitor that the staff is in the area. “If they don’t see you, you won’t be in their hearts.”

If someone appears to live instead of camping on public land and ignores tent tags or direct warnings, it will be reported to law enforcement. BLM added Salida-based law enforcement officers this summer.

Last year’s Rec Rangers contacted 1,000 visitors, installed nearly 3,500 feet of back-and-rail fences, maintained or installed more than 270 signs, and 125 campfire rings between April and October. It was dismantled. ###

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