New 30-site campground slated for Elkhead Reservoir near Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

New 30-site campground slated for Elkhead Reservoir near Craig

Lauren Blair

Elkhead Reservoir gleams in the late afternoon light in December, before the reservoir had fully iced over. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has allocated $1.5 million toward the construction of a new campground at Elkhead slated to begin this year. The project will add a proposed 30 sites with electric hookups, expanding the current campsite offerings by nearly 200 percent.

— A favorite of Moffat County locals for summertime recreation, Elkhead Reservoir is soon to host a new campground nearly double the size of the existing Bears Ears campground.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has allocated $1.5 million for the construction of a new campground with electric hookups. Jacob Brey, park manager of Yampa River and Elkhead Reservoir State Park, hopes to add 30 new sites.

"We're still in the early phases of the design process," Brey said. "If electric costs come in way out of budget, something may have to give there."

The new campground will be sited on an already flattened area near the boat ramp where users first enter the park, on the southwest end of the reservoir. If CPW is able to meet its 30-site goal, the expansion will mean nearly a 200-percent increase over the current 16 sites available at Bears Ears campground.

"I'm just excited to have more product in our area," said Moffat County Tourism Association Director Tom Kleinschnitz. "We do have an amazing amount of public lands in our area, so having the resources and tourists in our area to enjoy them is important."

The project got a thumbs up from Craig City Council in January. The council needed to approve construction and give the mayor of Craig license to execute a utility easement with Yampa Valley Electric Association to provide electricity to the campgrounds.

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"I think it will definitely bring more business, especially getting electric out there," Mayor Pro Tem Kent Nielson said at the meeting.

Though no projections are available for how the sites could increase tourism, the current sites fill up most weekends throughout the summer, Brey said. He hopes the additional capacity as well as the electric hook-ups will create a new draw for out-of-towners.

"It would really provide the opportunity for folks to have some more conveniences that you associate with a lot of state-run campgrounds," Brey said. "The reality is we're probably never going to have full hook-ups with water and sewer, but this goes a long way for folks with RV and campers to be able to hook up to electricity."

Increased usage was also behind another change for Elkhead campers this year: rather than claiming campground sites on a first-come, first-served basis, sites can be reserved through a new online reservation system.

"It does expose (the sites) to more people outside our area, for people to be able to reserve them and hold them, so that is an advantage to those looking for a vibrant tourism economy," Kleinschnitz said, adding that locals will have to get used to planning ahead.

Sites at the Bears Ears Campground currently go for $18 per night, and the online reservation system tacks a $10 reservation fee onto the total. In the past, local campers "reserved" sites by dropping coolers or other belongings off on a Thursday night and paying for an additional night to hold the site for the weekend, so Brey hopes the additional fee actually works out to most peoples' advantage.

Kleinschnitz hopes the expansion could also provide new business opportunities to Moffat County residents. He found only one operator based in Steamboat Springs who is currently authorized to take visitors out on the reservoir for activities such as wakeboarding, water skiing and tubing.

"We need to provide more services and this is a good start," he said.

Brey hopes the design plans will go out to bid in a couple months, and hopes to get as many bids from local companies as possible. Construction won't get under away until at least the end of summer or fall 2017, with no completion date set as of yet.

To bid on a project, contractors must be registered with the state vendor website.