A series of 40 basic, overflow campsites being planned on Bartlett Lane have been put on hold pending discussions with South Fork community members after numerous neighbors spoke out against the plan.
Dave Glenn, deputy director of Wyoming State Parks, said he made the decision to halt work on the campsites across the canal from Marquette Lane after receiving numerous calls from South Fork residents concerned about the increase in traffic, camp sites could produce and the effect on the rural area southwest of Cody.
“It may be that this summer, we’re done,” he said. “Right now, things are starting to slow down, people are going back to school.”
He said the other camping sites put up on both the North and South Fork sides of Buffalo Bill State Park would remain, although the sites near the South Shore boat ramp haven’t attracted any interest. He said the temporary sites are a good thing and he has heard positive remarks from people on the North Fork tired of tourists camping, and leaving trash, on the side of the road.
“We’re trying to increase the economic impact, so if folks don’t want that, we’ll go somewhere else,” he said. “Our idea with temporary sites, let’s see how they do.”
He said if the sites don’t work, they won’t be considered for the permanent master plan.
Glenn said the department had not done a good enough job getting the word out about the sites being temporary and the details on where and how many would be put up. The state department scheduled a meeting 6 p.m. Monday at Shreve Lodge on the North Fork at Buffalo Bill State Park.
Community members had started a petition that had nearly 300 signatures Friday objecting to the South Fork campsites. Local resident LC Timbs said he was calling state and local officials to express his opposition to the proposals and his worry it could lead to more issues on the South Fork than there already are due to the increase in new residents moving in.
“We were able to reach deputy director Dave Glenn. He put a stop to the project and we appreciate him very much,” Timbs said. “That’s a fine state official and we owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Buffalo Bill State Park has been adding dozens of new campsites to accommodate the huge demand this summer.
Initially sites were added on the North Fork side near other established campsites and around the South Shore boat ramp.
Jared Brinkerhoff, assistant superintendent at Buffalo Bill State Park, said 24 temporary camping spots were added on the North Fork and 56 at South Shore.
North Fork resident Scott Weber said the additional spots near Gibb’s Bridge on the North Fork have been the only popular overflow spots as far as he can see.
Brinkerhoff said it’s a statewide program to add spots and local staffs have simply been told where to put in new campsites.
“If they have questions, they can contact Cheyenne,” Brinkerhoff said. “If they want changes or to appeal, they need to call them.”
To comment or get more information, call the Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails at (307) 777-6323.
Brinkerhoff said so far the new spaces, which aren’t much more than a pad and some picnic tables, haven’t been too popular. He saw about 10 North Fork spots being used one morning during the week, and hasn’t really seen any campers at South Shore.
“I don’t really see locals wanting to camp there,” he said. “It’s rough.”
A petition was formed against the new sites on the South Fork after people noticed survey work on Bartlett Lane. The petition had 280 signatures by Friday morning.
Dave Elliott, who lives on Marquette Drive across the canal from where the land is being prepared, said the possibility of permanent camping there is what worries him and his neighbors most.
“The fear we have is it will lower property values,” he said. “The North Fork is one thing, a temporary campground in a desolate area, but this one is right across the canal from an established neighborhood.”
Timbs said he came for the quiet lifestyle in a conservative, low-crime area.
“I called the governor’s office, I want the governor in this,” he said. “We already have problems on this road. It’s heavily traveled and lots of reckless drivers, and this is only going to make this worse.”
He said residents on the South Fork didn’t even know about the camping spots on Bartlett Lane until they saw surveyors marking out the area.
The petition on change.org asks for more community input and reads:
“We oppose a large number of RV camping spots because:
• It will significantly increase South Fork traffic.
• It will disturb the wide open and quiet space available for relaxation unique to this side of the park.
“The quiet and expansive views conveniently accessed on the South Fork serve to recharge local residents and visitors who want to experience Wyoming’s local beauty,” wrote Jason Byer, who started the petition. “We suggest involving the local residents before making such a large and permanent change to our park.”
The first new campsites at Buffalo Bill State Park arrived during the July Fourth weekend, part of a statewide effort that also includes sites like Glendo State Park and Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site and benefits from $6.5 million in CARES Act funds made available to the agency by Gov. Mark Gordon.
“Expanding outdoor recreation opportunities will benefit the state, and will provide an immediate return on investment,” Gordon said in a news release at the time. “The public appreciated the fact that our parks remained open last year, providing a healthy option to relieve the stress of the pandemic. Strengthening our state park system is important to Wyoming’s long-term economic health as well.”
The state is now looking for comment on adding camping opportunities at state historic sites as another way to boost tourism revenues and offset the declines in energy.
These parks and sites include Bear River State Park, Edness K. Wilkins State Park, Fort Bridger State Historic Site, Fort Fetterman State Historic Site, Fort Kearny State Historic Site, South Pass City State Historic Site and Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site.