Bridger-Teton National Forest officials are looking to repair the Curtis Canyon Road between the Elk Refuge Road and Curtis Canyon Campground, a 3.5-mile stretch that is often in poor condition for low-clearance vehicles.
Friday is the deadline for the public to comment on the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s preliminary plans for upgrading campgrounds and roads near Curtis Canyon.
Among other plans, the Bridger-Teton wants to rebuild the road that ascends from the National Elk Refuge to the Curtis campgrounds, triple the size of the developed campground and decommission a gnarly mile-long spur road that takes visitors from the main Curtis Canyon Road to the Goodwin Lake trailhead. The forest would build a 12-car parking lot where the spur road currently intersects with the main road and build a new trail through the forest to connect to the trailhead.
In general the goal is to get a handle on a deluge of visitors and human waste piling up on the landscape, and to improve deteriorating, unsafe infrastructure. Curtis Canyon is the closest campground to Jackson and sees nearly 15,000 visitors a year.
The current campground — a mix of 11 developed and 22 dispersed sites — hovers at roughly 93% occupancy during the summer months.
In 2010, that number was closer to 10%.
“We’re pretty darn confident that if we built 20 more campsites up there, the public would definitely use the campground,” said Jackson District Ranger Todd Stiles.(tncms-asset)1cad0af6-a564-11ed-a9d2-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
The plans call for adding a new vault toilet and 22 new campsites at the developed campground near the Curtis Canyon overlook.
Rangers would also install a handful of new interpretive signs and place boulders around dispersed campsites further uphill to keep off-highway vehicles from running roughshod over the landscape, which can spread noxious weeds and disturb native vegetation.
If people have problems submitting comments digitally, they can call the forest at 739-5428 to troubleshoot.
The Bridger-Teton is looking to approve the five projects under a categorical exclusion, the lowest level of review under the National Environmental Policy Act. To do so, it’s citing five criteria that allow it to use a categorical exclusion when improving and restoring roads, trails and other infrastructure in developed areas.
Forest officials currently have about $500,000 from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to work on the project, which could cost about $2 million in total if the Bridger-Teton goes through with all five projects, Stiles said. How the Bridger-Teton would fund the balance of the work remains to be seen, but the Jackson District Ranger said grants would be a part of it and that the Friends of the Bridger-Teton, the forest’s nonprofit partner, might choose to fundraise.
Stiles also said he hasn’t determined when the forest will begin working on the project, though some work on the campground could begin as early as this fall.
Stiles said the priority for this project in 2023 is completing the current scoping process.
“Let’s make sure we’ve got a good proposal; let’s get a signed decision so we know where we’re going,” Stiles said.
Once that’s done, the Forest Service will work with engineers to make a plan for construction.
Commercial use of the Elk Refuge and Curtis Canyon has skyrocketed. Side by side rentals and wildlife tour vans are putting incredible traffic pressure on the resource. These commercial uses are destroying the peace and quiet of this amazing wild place.
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