This morning was a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the new warming hut and Continental Divide Trail trailhead at the summit of Berthoud Pass.
The shelter is the product of a lot of different parties coming together to get a project completed in record time. Partners in this project included the US Forest Service, Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado State Parks, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, the county commissioners from Clear Creek and Grand counties and Friends of Berthoud Pass.
One of my contacts at the US Forest Service told me, "I've been a ranger for more than 20 years and I've never seen a project come together so quickly." Just three years ago this was nothing more than an idea. The conceptual elements, environmental studies, needs analysis and funding fell into place in good order, and this is what we've got...
The new shelter is situated just north of the old lodge, right overlooking the Shop Chutes. I didn't take pictures of the entire site, and now wish I had. The Continental Divide marker has been pushed back from it's old location in the middle of the parking area, to a location about fifty feet to the south-east of the new building. The parking area accommodates roughly 120 cars, though I'm certain with smart placement, we can squeeze in a few more on busy winter weekends. There is a single, dedicated vehicle entrance to the lot, with good sightlines in both directions over US40, so merging on and off should be easier. Pedestrian crossing, in the form of a zebra crossing with blinking lights, is going to come in Phase II (whenever that happens).
The interior is sparse, but utilitarian. The walls are treated particleboard, and corrugated aluminum, the floors are concrete. There are large south-facing windows to absorb solar heat as well as a radiant heat system through the floors. There is a bench around the entire room and a picnic table will be added in the near future. There is minimal florescent lighting.
We would have liked to see solar or wind-generated power for the project, and that might still come in the future. The room is coded to hold as many as 80 people, but realistically I'd think it'd be a tight squeeze with more than about 40. The windows are double-paned and eventually there will be some sort of metal grate over the lowermost portion to prevent accidental breakage. There also is a provision for some signage inside. We're putting together a draft of what we'd like to see as far as information on basic avalanche awareness, and contact numbers for avy reports, Friends of Berthoud Pass, local rescue groups etc. There is an outside chance that we'll be able to use a small storeroom at the rear of the building to cache some ski patrol rescue gear, but those details won't be worked out for at least a couple of months. Any ideas on that are welcome.
This is what you were really looking forward to, I know. Me too. Low-tech composting toilets. Separate ones for the menfolk and for the wimmins. I don't know the technical specs of the facilities, but I'm sure the USFS could provide that without too much trouble.
No running water. No sinks. No mirrors. Just what ya need. There will be small waste receptacles in the bathrooms, but at present there is no plan for trash bins anywhere at the summit. This had me a bit miffed initially, but in thinking it through, it sort of makes sense, insofar as minimizing trash on the whole. With barrels or bins up there, the tendency is that people dump everything out of their car into the receptacles available. There is a high cost logistically, as well as monetarily to remove trash, especially in the winter, so the govt is loathe to get into it.
It's a decent structure, and one that we hope will last for a while. Our role as good citizens, and as concerned users of the Pass, will be to do our best to maintain the facility. This means not tagging or littering the place, doing our part to remove trash and ice, educating others about following our lead, and helping to make vandalism a non-issue.
I can't stress how important this is.
Right now the plan is to keep the building open every day all day. 365, 24-7. This will change the minute it has to. That is, if people start using it to camp out in, party in, etc. we'll lose it. It's designated a day-use area, and law enforcement likely will kick you out if you're using it after hours for more than emergency or rest use. There is a very small staff of Forest Rangers who will be up there periodically to shovel snow, and generally keep the place up. If you run into them, introduce yourself, tell them you're a Friend of Berthoud Pass and ask if there's anything you can do to help them. They're good people and they'll certainly appreciate the friendliness. I'm pretty certain they're installing security cams, and they might wire them to the web if we're lucky, so we entire Internetz can monitor the place. Kewl.
Friends of Berthoud Pass will be taking it upon ourselves to provide trash collection and facility maintenance on an individual basis. That means every day I ski up there, before I head out, I'll take five minutes to pick up any litter I see on the ground, tie a trash bag to my bumper, or somewhere useful, and at the end of the day, spend another five minutes picking up and then haul my stuff off the Pass. The Forest Service has offered us free bags and use of the dumpsters at the district ranger offices, which is pretty cool. If I see an unsafe condition, I'll try to fix it and then report it back to the district ranger to be properly addressed. I urge you to do so also.
We're pleased with what they've done and proud of our role in making it happen. Is it perfect? Hell no. Is it better than we had last season? Absolutely.
Let us know what you think. Any ideas you have as far as interpretive and informational signage, designing a protocol for rescue equipment, building maintenance or other issues, please let us know and we'll work with the land managers to implement as best as we're able.
Cheers, see ya at the Pass!