Saturday, July 30, 2005

Aliens in Summit County?

"Tree pyramids or teepees" are appearing at Sapphire Point.

Sapphire Point is located on Swan Mountain Road, above Lake Dillon, just north of Breckenridge.

"I don't know where they're coming from," says Ken Waugh, recreation staff officer with the Dillon Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service. "Maybe aliens are building them."

Despite the jokes, the potential fire hazard and public safety issues associated with the pyramids/teepees is no laughing matter to the agency, and rangers would like to see the informal construction projects end.

As of this week, five of the distinctive structures were visible in the lodgepole pine forest around the popular overlook and picnic spot. At least 100 people per day use the area - and that's just during weekdays, when Forest Service rangers in the area make an informal count.

One of the structures looks like a two-story dwelling, says Lin Denham, a USFS trail crew leader who is working on widening the trail at Sapphire Point.

"It seems like the local custom is to take these lodgepole logs from a thinning project and build these teepees," Denham says, adding that her trail crew has been taking them down on a regular basis, only to see them re-appear almost right away.

"Forest Service regs prohibit maintaining structures on national forest system lands," she said, adding that the trail workers have found fire rings in and near some of the structures.

"We'd love it if people would stop," Denham says. "Where they are is in a natural viewshed. People go up there to appreciate the natural setting."The structures don't necessarily fit into that setting.

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