From atop the cliffs at Guffey Gorge, also known as Paradise Cove, the drop looks a lot farther than it does from below. Your friends become ants, and your body trembles with excitement or nervousness depending on your relationship with heights. You make sure you pick your jump line just perfectly—too far or too short might end up with a painful plunge connecting with the ground beneath shallow water. You jump, and maybe you scream, but maybe you just watch the colors blend as you fall. The water greets you; it’s icy but refreshing on this hot summer day. You kick towards the surface and swim to shore, ready to run up and do it again between beers and sunbathing.
This is a familiar experience for many students at Colorado College. The formerly secret jumping spot, passed down from upperclassmen, is not so secret anymore. Guffey used to be an escape for a relaxing afternoon with a few friends, but over the past few years it’s turned “into a destination for partying,” according to the Bureau of Land Management.
With around 12,000 visitors each summer and a record of 6,500 visitors this past July alone, the area “known for its year-round opportunities for swimming in a natural peaceful setting” is no longer, and “the social setting has shifted dramatically,” according to observations by the BLM staff.
Alcohol and drug use is regularly observed, and “the atmosphere is comprised of large crowds, parties, foul language, and noise. This has displaced local visitors, families, and individuals looking for a quiet setting. Signs request visitors to remove their own trash, but it is left on site. Trash removal after each weekend is typically a pickup truck full of trash.”
Concern has arisen over the increased traffic and changes in the social scene at Guffey, and the BLM in Cañon City, led by Linda Skinner, has began a scoping process to develop a management plan for the area. Skinner contacted the CC Outdoor Recreation Club in order to reach out to our demographic: the young, adventurous college students.
The hope is that with as much citizen input as possible, the BLM will create a management plan “to reduce impacts to the adjacent community and public lands at Guffey Gorge in Park County.” The plan consists of four goals: “(1) reduce risks to public health and safety, (2) reduce the impacts to resources, (3) identify strategies to fund the necessary increase in management that the site requires, and (4) continue to provide recreational opportunities for visitors that do not significantly impact other resources or recreation uses and provide the visitor’s desired atmosphere.”
If you’ve ever jumped from the towering gray cliffs, or if you’d like to, your input is important!
The scoping period runs for another week, until September 11. It’s crucial that CC students reach out to Linda Skinner at 719-852-8732 or firstname.lastname@example.org to submit comments and suggestions regarding the future of one of our favorite local swimming holes. Visit the BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office website for more information.