Maxwell Falls, a popular hiking area near Evergreen that has been plagued by crowded trails and overflow parking issues in recent years, has been designated as one of five areas where “dispersed camping” will be prohibited this year by the forest service.
Two weeks ago, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests announced that five “heavily trampled” areas would be converted to day-use only, spokeswoman Reid Armstrong said, adding that the action was being taken “to allow them to heal and for us to come up with a better management plan for them.”
In forest service parlance, dispersed camping refers to areas where camping is allowed in non-designated sites with little or no facilities.
The other four areas are:
- Vasquez Creek and Little Vasquez Creek near Winter Park
- Rainbow Lake Road near Nederland
- Ceran St. Vrain near Jamestown, northwest of Boulder
- Winiger Ridge near Gross Reservoir
Maxwell Falls is located 5 miles from the town center of Evergreen. Residents of the area have been complaining about overflowing parking lots, cars parked dangerously on the shoulder of a narrow, winding two-lane road, illegal campfires and dogs off leash with owners who don’t pick up after them. Along with the camping ban, the forest service action prohibits open fires. The area is to be used only between sunrise and sunset.
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Maxwell Falls will be designated day-use only for five years.
“This area draws campers and late-night partiers who have campfires that are often left unextinguished,” according to a forest service news release. “The proximity of residential neighborhoods at the top of the canyon walls and nearby put these communities at great risk of being impacted by an escaped campfire from below. It is now prohibited to camp, have a campfire or be in the Maxwell Falls area between sundown and sunrise.”
The proximity of residential neighborhoods at the top of the canyon walls and nearby put these communities at great risk of being impacted by an escaped campfire from below. In close coordination with local fire departments, the Jefferson County Sheriff and other local elected officials, the Forest has designated this area as “day use only” for the next five years. It is now prohibited to camp, have a campfire or be in the Maxwell Falls area between sundown and sunrise.
Mindy Hanson, who lives about a mile from the trailhead, welcomes the day-use-only designation but questions how much good it will do.
“The change is fantastic, except there is no signage and no enforcement, so currently it’s kind of an empty statement,” Hanson said. “We absolutely want to support the forest service. We understand the wildland-urban interface is unique, because it is a little piece of forest service in the middle of a community, and we understand the forest service doesn’t have the people and resources to have someone on scene.”
On Saturday night, Hanson said, multiple vehicles were parked in both lots at the trailhead at 9:30 p.m.
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“You can’t tell me those people are going to leave if they’re still there at 9:30 at night,” Hanson said. “They are clearly camping. But there’s nobody we can even report it to. The sheriffs can’t do anything because it’s forest land, and the forest people are so overworked, there’s no way they can enforce it.”
Hanson said residents of the area are hoping to form a volunteer group that will help monitor the area for rule breakers and report them to authorities.
“Our hope is that we can work with the forest service to come up with some sort of plan,” Hanson said.
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