Court-ordered settlement ends hiking and parking fees at Mt. Lemmon Recreation Area in Arizona
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Hikers in Arizona will get a break from pesky Forest Service recreation fees this summer, as a federal judge last week approved a settlement that ensures free access to the trails and backcountry of the Mt. Lemmon Recreation Area, near Tuscon.
A new lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. could end the widespread practice of charging fees at day-use areas via private for-profit concessionaires who manage nearby campgrounds.
The lawsuit identifies five specific sites, including Bagby Hot Springs and Big Eddy day use sites on the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon, Rose Canyon Lake on the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, Second Crossing on the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, Walton Lake on the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon, and Rampart Reservoir on the Pike National Forest in Colorado.
“These recreation facilities are located on federal land and were built with taxpayer dollars. The Forest Service can’t just declare them exempt from federal law by hiring private contractors to run them. It’s a backdoor route to the privatization of our public lands and an outrageous disregard of congressional direction,” said Olivia Schmidt, program director at BARK, an Oregon group watch-dogging Mt. Hood National Forest.
Revised plan for Green Mountain Reservoir, Cataract Lake area gets provisional OK from advisory group
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — This land is once again your land for free, at least at the popular Cataract Lake trailhead in northern Summit County, where the U.S. Forest Service has been charging a feee to park and hike since the late 1990s.
But last week, a citizen advisory committee voted to a approve a revised recreation plan for the larger Green Mountain Reservoir area, including Cataract Lake, and the new plan ends the unpopular Cataract Lake parking and hiking fee, as well as day use fees at Green Mountain Reservoir. The new plan also reconfigures camping fees to a basic per-site charge, with extra fees for extra cars.
The San Francisco-based Appeals Court found the U.S. Forest Service at fault for charging parking fees to people who go for a hike without using amenities such as picnic tables, trashcans and bathrooms located nearby, or who camp in dispersed, undeveloped parts of a National Forest.
If the ruling stands, it will be binding in nine western states and sets a nationwide legal precedent. The ruling doesn’t cover Colorado, but the fee program at Mt. Evans is currently being challenged in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals — which does cover Colorado, and the recent ruling out of San Francisco could be a factor in that case. Continue reading “Forest Service recreation fees take another legal hit”→
Public comment wanted on plan to charge for access to peaks in the Colony Basin area of the Sangre de Cristos
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service is considering charging $10 to $20 for climbing a group of popular fourteeners in the Sangre de Cristos in order to help pay for trail work and restoration of damaged alpine tundra. For now, the proposal is only aimed at summer users.
“Relying on recreation use fees appears to be the best option for providing future high quality backcountry experiences and protecting the natural environment in South Colony Basin,” Forest Service ranger Paul Crespin wrote in a May 12 letter announcing the proposal.
While the agency claims it needs the money to help manage the area, groups opposed to the fees say the plan a first step toward widespread hiking fees on fourteeners. A better option would be to adopt a free first-come, first-serve permit system, according to the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition. Continue reading “Fourteener fees in Colorado?”→
Chief Tom Tidwell says agency wants to maintain ‘affordable access’on public lands
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service has backed away from a plan to cut senior discounts at campgrounds operated by private companies.
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced the decision March 17, saying in a prepared statement that the agency wants to “maintain affordable access to our National Forests and Grasslands, giving people easy ways to recreate and find respite in the great outdoors.”
The Forest Service had proposed changes to discounts provided to holders of Golden Age and Golden Access Passports and Senior and Access Passes. Under the proposal, discounts at concession-operated campgrounds would have changed from the current 50 percent to 10 percent. After receiving more than 4,000 public comments, Tidwell said the proposed changes are not the best way to address growing challenges regarding services provided by private businesses at Forest Service recreation facilities. See the original proposal here. Continue reading “Forest Service drops plan to cut senior camping discounts”→