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Gothic gets too many visitors

Brief by Central Staff

Growth – October 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory sits in the old mining camp of Gothic in Gunnison County. Since 1928, scientists have gone there to study birds, marmots, butterflies, and flowers in a relatively isolated spot away from much human activity.

Problem is, it’s not so isolated any more, given the growth in nearby Crested Butte as well as mountain tourism in general.

The narrow dirt road is now jammed with spewts, motorcycles, ATVs, bicycles, and other traffic on summer weekends. Birds along the road have abandoned their nests as a result of noise and dust.

John Johnson, who founded the laboratory, used to ask Gunnison County every year to “keep the road poor,” because “surely it is not selfish to hope that one area of Colorado can be largely set aside for biological study and research.”

But even if the road is narrow and rutted, it now gets a lot of traffic, and Gunnison County officials are looking for a solution. Commissioner Hap Channell observed that “Some fragile ecosystems require new and different ways of protection.”

One possibility is to pave the road, but allow driving only by lab workers and people who own property in the area; everyone else would have to take a bus.