Written by Paul Day
FAIRPLAY, Colo. (CBS4) – The race is on to dig out high country campgrounds in time for the Memorial Day Weekend.

“We’re making progress,” said Janet Sharp, a campground host at the Jefferson Lake Recreation Area.

On Wednesday, Sharp was shoveling heavy snow off of a fire pit. Her husband Clint is one of two United States Forest Service contractors plowing out individual campsites with small tractors.

“Some of the places are five, six, seven feet deep,” Clint Sharp added.

His boss was carefully maneuvering the other tractor.

“I know where the fire ring is, I know where the table is,” explained concessionaire Chuck Hallam.

Hallam says it’s typical for mid-May sunshine to help thaw out the area in Park County, which is at 10,500 feet elevation. But the past two weeks have delivered only more snow.

“Probably this is the worst year ever,” Hallam said.

The outhouses and drinking water pumps are good to go after being cleaned and inspected. But the main attraction there is Jefferson Lake, and it’s still iced under. In fact, campers won’t even get a glimpse of the popular fishing hole because the road leading into it remains blocked by snow drifts.

So the pressure is on. All 64 campsites at Jefferson Lake have been reserved for the holiday. The concessionaire promises everything will be open by Friday morning. It’s why contractors are working overtime.

“They take it as a personal challenge,” said Mike Welker, the district ranger based in Fairplay.

There is a bright side to camping in winter-like conditions — cooler aren’t needed. Just stick what needs to chill in any of the snowdrifts that still surround many of the campsites.

The kids will also probably love it.

“Can you imagine making a snowman in (late) May almost June,” Clint said. “It’s going be great.”

Those who do decide to go should be careful negotiating the slippery campground roads. On Wednesday at least one 4-wheel drive had to be pulled out of a drift.


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