Some broken-down pull-behind campers have been left in a long-term RV storage lot on the Bighorn National Forest near Greybull for so long, marmots have started moving into them, and the U.S. Forest Service wants the site cleaned up.
“We need to put a short pause (on camper parking there), hopefully for just one season,” District Ranger Mark Foster told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.
He oversees the Medicine Wheel Ranger District, which is based in Greybull and part of the Bighorn National Forest.
The RV storage site is in an old gravel quarry and, as far as Foster knows, is the only one of its kind on any National Forest.
However, at least four of the 10-20 campers that are regularly kept there have apparently been flat-out abandoned for years, so the Forest Service would like to have a private concessionaire take over the site.
Things Went Well At First
The site dates back to the 1980s, Foster said. The Forest Service at that time started letting people park their campers for free at the old quarry during the winter. The site is just off Forest Service Road 648 between Porcupine Falls and Bucking Mule Falls.
It worked well for years, he said. Owners were diligent about keeping their campers neatly parked and in good repair at the site. But as the years wore on, some people started abusing the privilege and abandoning campers there.
Some of that might have been unintentional, Foster added.
“People’s circumstances might have changed,” and some campers parked there might have simply been forgotten, he said.
Whatever the case, the site has become an eyesore and some old campers started leaking oil or other fluids, or birds and animals started building nests in them, he said.
‘We’re Inefficient At That’
In response, the Bighorn National Forest issued an order this week prohibiting people from keeping campers in one spot too long anywhere there.
The order prohibits “camping in the Bighorn National Forest for more than 14 days within a 28-day period without moving all equipment and personal property a minimum of 5 road miles after the 14th day,” according to a statement issued by the Forest Service.
Even so, Foster said the intention isn’t to shut down the RV parking area forever. In fact, he’d like to see more sites like it.
But it will take a private entity to do it right, he said.
If a private concessionaire could take over the camper storage site, it could charge users a nominal fee, he said. It could also quickly crack down if any users stopped paying their fees or just simply abandon a camper at the site.
For example, a private company could quickly seize an abandoned camper and put if up for sale or auction, like what happens with items left abandoned in storage units, Foster said.
“We’re inefficient at that,” he said. “If a camper is abandoned or is starting to leak hazardous fluids, we have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops. We have to put out 90-day notices and wait before we can do anything.”
‘A Model For The Rest Of The Country’
However, the Forest Service is stuck getting rid of the campers that are now abandoned at the site, Foster said. The hope is to have the site cleared out within the next few months so the agency can start calling for bids from concessionaires.
“Nobody is going to want to take over a site that already has abandoned property sitting on it. We want to get it cleared out first so a concessionaire can come into a clean site and start running it as they see fit,” Foster said.
If it works out, Foster said he’d like to see more sites like it to give people an affordable option for storing their campers.
“I think if this is successful, we can make it a model for the rest of the country,” he said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.