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Congress sets hearing on public lands ‘pay-to-play’ fees

Summit County hiking Colorado

Congress will take input on the controversial federal pay-to-play program this week.

Critics say loopholes enable federal agencies to charge illegal fees

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The federal pay-to-play program will get a once-over in Congress this week, as a House subcommittee hears from agency officials and citizens before the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act expires next year.

At issue are how the fee program for access to public lands is being implemented by federal agencies. The hearing is set to start at 10 a.m. EDT and should be available as webcast via the House Committee on Natural Resources website.

The access fees started in the late 1990s as the so-called fee demo program, enabling federal land agencies to charge fees as long the money was used to improve the area where it was collected. Continue reading

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Travel: BLM improving campgrounds in western Colorado

Popular Rabbit Valley campground enlarged

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The BLM is improving some facilities in the popular McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, west of Grand Junction, Colorado. Photo courtesy BLM.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Campers in western Colorado will have more options this summer, as the Bureau of Land Management quadruples the size of the Rabbit Valley Campground, from four spots to 16.

The campground, in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction, will be closed for several weeks while the work — including two new group campsites — is under way. The campground road will be improved, and each campsite will now have a tent pad, fire ring and picnic table.

“Rabbit Valley is a great place to car camp, and these improvements are designed to enhance the camping experience for visitors,” said Ben Blom, acting National Conservation Area manager for the BLM Grand Junction Field Office. Continue reading

BLM ups fees along Upper Colorado River

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A small increase in day use fees will help maintain busy facilities along the Upper Colorado River between Pumphouse and Dotsero. Photo courtesy BLM.

Fees go toward facility improvements and seasonal rangers along the river

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Boaters, hikers and anglers will pay just a bit more to use Bureau of Land Management day use areas along the upper Colorado River between Pumphouse and Dotsero.

The daily fee is jumping from $3 to $5 and season passes are climbing from $15 to $20 in the first fee increase since 1998 for the popular area, used by about 60,000 people annually.

“All the fees collected in these areas stay here to provide services and improvements for the people using the area,” said Susan Cassel, acting Kremmling Field Manager. “In addition to helping fund our seasonal rangers, we’ve also made significant improvements to the launch sites, campgrounds and other facilities.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Summer!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy …

Summer starts with the solstice, the longest day of the year, photographed at Loveland Pass, Colorado, 11,999 feet above the sea.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Mid-July is definitely the height of the summer season pretty much anywhere in the northern hemisphere, so when #FriFotos host and founder @EpsteinTravels announced this week’s theme for the popular Twitter chat, I zipped through the archives to find a few shots from this summer, as well as year’s past. And as much as I love cold powder snow and skiing, there’s something to be said for being able to go outside without putting on multiple layers, hats, gloves … you know what I mean, right? Join in the fun by uploading pics to Twitter and tagging them with #FriFotos.

The Tiki Bar at the Dillon Marina is definitely a good place to celebrate the summer season.

Continue reading

Colorado: Water woes at Summit County’s campgrounds

A family from Golden, Colorado camps at Heaton Bay, the only major Summit County campground where the water is working.

Leaks, busted pipes crimp camping fun as Forest Service and new concessionaire try to repair leaks and wells before July 4th

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — U.S. Forest Service recreation managers in Summit County are once again struggling with operational issues, as extensive damage to water systems left all the local campgrounds — totaling several hundred campsites — without water over Memorial Day weekend.

Additionally, a key Forest Service well that supplies water to campgrounds on the south side of Dillon Reservoir is in danger of running dry.

The water table the Lowry Well is down 50 feet, likely due to the drought. The same well went dry during the 2002 drought, but Forest Service officials hope it will deliver water through the bulk of the busy summer season.

“We now have water at Heaton Bay only,” said Howard Scott, longtime manager of developed recreation for the Dillon Ranger District. Continue reading

Passive outdoor recreation grows, skiing, hunting decline

New Forest Service study analyzes outdoor recreation trends.

Forest Service study takes big picture look at outdoor recreation trends

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Outdoor recreation in the U.S. is shifting toward more passive activities, with the biggest growth seen in areas like wildlife watching and photography, according to a new study published by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station.

Traditional activities, including hunting and fishing, were flat, while various forms of skiing, including snowboarding, declined during the 10-year study period from 2000 to 2009.

“Our research shows that, not only are more Americans participating in outdoor recreation, but the number of times they participated in many of the outdoor activities surveyed has grown,” said author and lead researcher Ken Cordell, considered an authority on recreational trends in the United States. Continue reading

Morning photo: Wild west

Wide open spaces …

Sunset in Palisade, Colorado.

Photos by Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — I pulled together today’s photo essay as I was preparing for the popular Twitter #Expchat, a weekly forum for sharing travel information. I was struck by one thing: In all the thousands of tweets relating to travel in the West, not a single one mentioned shopping, nor did anyone say they wanted to visit Colorado and the West to look at gas drilling rigs. That’s not really a surprise. It’s the region’s wide open and protected spaces that are the real draw, and lawmakers, policy makers and other involved in developing management policies for these lands should take heed. Continue reading

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