A proposal to open a piece of private property above Ken’s Lake in San Juan County to camping prompted questions and unease from residents and local government bodies. The Grand County Commission approved a letter asking that the San Juan County Planning Commission delay approval for the proposed tent campground near Flat Pass, along Mill Creek above Ken’s Lake, until potential impacts to the watershed can be evaluated.

Thomas Zimmer requested a conditional use permit to allow a college to use his property for student camping trips and attended a Jan. 13 meeting of the San Juan County Planning Commission to discuss the plans. Although the college was not specified at the meeting, Zimmer is an assistant professor of Leadership and Outdoor Education and the director of an experiential leadership program at Wyoming Catholic College.

Zimmer explained that there would be no more than 100 people on the property at one time. The property would not be open to the public or other users.

The San Juan County Planning Commission was hesitant to approve the request, citing a number of concerns including potential impacts to the watershed, access for fire and emergency vehicles, and oversight of activities on the property.

Zimmer’s address, as listed on the application, is in Wyoming; he told the Planning Commission that he visits Moab several times a year and would check on the property, but is mostly relying on the integrity of an organization that he trusts.

“We’re not just letting yahoos in there… they know what they’re doing, they’re professional instructors,” Zimmer said.

According to Zimmer’s outline, students would pack in their own water and pack out their own waste using wag bags. The San Juan County Health Department signed off on the plan. In a letter, an inspector stated that campsites should be a minimum of 200 feet from waterways and random inspections would verify that wastewater is not being dumped and that campsites are being cleaned up.

Many San Juan County residents gave comments at the meeting, raising concerns about the proposal. Commissioners reported they’d also received dozens of emails and asked Zimmer to gather more information, including more specifics on the timeframes people would be using the property; assessments from fire personnel on the condition of the road; and to produce the contract with the college, before returning to address some of those concerns.

The San Juan County Planning Commission voted unanimously to table consideration of the permit until that information is gathered.