Most of the campgrounds in the national forest surrounding Aspen, Colo., will be operated by a new management company for the first time in 12 summers next year, according to a report by the Aspen Times.
A private firm called California Land Management (CLM) Services placed the winning bid to earn a five-year permit to operate the major developed campgrounds throughout the White River National Forest, said Rich Doak, recreation staff officer with the forest supervisor’s office. The permit will be renewed for an additional five years if both parties agree.
The permit applies to hundreds of campsites in the sprawling, 2.28 million-acre national forest, which stretches from south of Aspen to north of Glenwood Springs and from the Rifle area in the west to Summit County in the east.
Eric Mart, co-founder and president of CLM, said his firm manages numerous national forest campgrounds in California, Oregon and Washington as well as some in Nevada. It has Forest Service permits in notable places such as the Tahoe, Sierra and Sequoia national forests in California and the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon.
CLM doesn’t currently have permits to operate in Colorado, but it placed a bid on this permit because of the potential of doing solid business in the White River National Forest, Mart said. The White River handles about 9.2 million recreational visitors annually, although the vast majority of those are customers of ski areas that use public lands.
Mart said campgrounds in the states where CLM operates tend to be more concentrated. In the White River, they are spread farther apart. That makes it tougher to do business.
“There are a couple of locations that generate a lot of revenues. Those are the key ones,” he said.
Campers will not notice major changes next summer, Mart said. CLM will maintain the camping fees that were put in place by the prior concessionaire, Thousand Trails Management Services Inc., he said.
Thousand Trails earned the permit in 2000 after the Aspen Ranger District decided to farm out operation of the campgrounds rather than maintain them itself. Thousand Trails had its permit renewed five years later, and then the permit went out for competitive bid at the end of 10 years.
Five companies placed bids in January. A panel undertook an extensive review and recommended that the permit be awarded to CLM. Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams concurred. The decision is under standard review by the regional office, and the transfer will likely occur by Jan. 1.
Thousand Trails agreed to manage the campgrounds for one year last summer even though it knew it didn’t have the long-term contract.