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FEE COMING TO SOUTH COLONY TRAIL

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FEE COMING TO SOUTH COLONY TRAIL

Postby Aaron Johnson » Wed May 12, 2010 12:50 am

Not Happy Campers

Enjoy hitting the trails in the Sangre de Cristos? Soon, it may cost you, a situation we assume will not please many campers.

U.S. Forest Service officials told the Custer County Commissioners yesterday that it is now moving ahead with plans to charge users fees in the South Colony Basin area here. The agency is now accepting public comments on the proposal.

The Forest Service has been dropping hints for years that it could initiate a pay-to-hike system in portions of the Sangres. In his presentation in Westcliffe on Wednesday, District Ranger Paul Crespin said the Forest Service’s preliminary fee proposal would require visitors to obtain a special recreation permit to access South Colony Basin and the adjoining summit trails. The proposed fee would be $10 per person per day for day trips, and $20 per person per trip for overnight trips. Those under the age of 18 would not be charged, and the fees would likely be charged between mid-May and mid-October each year.

In a prepared statement, the Forest Service says South Colony Basin “presents … many challenges not found in other backcountry locations, such as maintaining costly summit trails, restoring degraded alpine ecosystems, supporting search and rescue operations and dealing with human waste.”

To be sure, South Colony is probably the most used­and some would say abused­trail in the Sangres. The Forest Service says trailhead register data indicates 3,500 to 4,500 persons visit the small basin each summer season, with most visitors coming from along the Colorado Front Range. On average, 30 to 50 persons are on the trail on summer weekdays, with that number climbing to as many as 150 on typical weekends, and 200 or more on peak weekends.

In recent years, the Forest Service has worked with other non-profit groups to reconstruct trails, restore eroded slopes and make other improvements. With federal funding for such projects expected to wither even further, the fee system would provide needed cash.

It’s expected that the Colorado Recreation Resource Advisory Committee will possibly review the proposal in early 2011.

For questions about the proposal, and how to submit public comments, contact Mike Smith at the San Carlos Ranger District at 3028 E. Main in Canon City, phone 269-8500.

From Wet Mountain Tribune

NATIONAL FOREST COMMENT FORM HERE
Last edited by Aaron Johnson on Fri May 14, 2010 12:09 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Aaron Johnson » Wed May 12, 2010 12:53 am

Email text, reproduced here by permission from Kitty Benzar, President of the Western Slope No Fee Coalition, author of the following text:

Hi Aaron,

Attached are the EA and the Record of Decision. They contain the following refreshingly honest statement:
"A fee system would also function as a self-limiting method for reducing recreation use levels and the associated impacts in South Colony Basin."

My take: places as hammered as South Colony should require permits to limit access and protect the land. But the permits should be free and access to them should be on an equal footing, i.e. lottery, opening date for applications, etc. Systems like that have been around a lot longer than Fee Demo so people are familiar with them and understand the need.

It's sorting out who gets to go and who doesn't on the basis of money that I oppose. Why should a high-income person who thinks $20 is pocket change get to go, while a young climbing bum living out of his car - and we've all been him in our youth - can't?

The idea of limited permits was rejected in the EA/ROD because it was too expensive. Yet they don't even blink at the cost to patrol the parking lot checking passes - and that is where most of the fee money will be spent. (And they will have to patrol daily in order to determine who went in overnight.)

In Chicago Basin in the Weminuche, which is similarly hammered for similar reasons, they don't (yet) limit access, but they do have Wilderness Rangers patrolling and educating - out in the backcountry, not in the parking lots. I think that would be a much better approach, combined if necessary with a limited number of required permits.

Protecting the land from overuse and abuse is the most basic responsibility of the Forest Service, and it should be the first thing they spend appropriated funding on. They should find ways to accomplish resource protection that retain the idea that public lands are places where everyone has access and is welcome.

Also there are other ways into the 14ers around South Colony Basin, not as convenient but free. They are very lightly impacted now, but a fee will certainly cause increased use and impacts to those places. This was expressed in the public comments but the FS dismissed it out of hand, with no study or serious consideration.

Them's my thoughts. K.

Addition:

One more thought. I would not be against a fee to reserve a free permit, as long as someone who takes their chances on getting a permit on a walk-up basis doesn't have to pay. It would then be a reservation fee, not an access fee. Reservation fees are legal under FLREA, access fees are not.
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Postby mconnell » Wed May 12, 2010 4:59 pm

I agree with Kitty. Limiting the number of people in certain areas is a good idea. It's the cost that I would be against. I make a habit of avoiding places that I have to pay to access. For places I really want to go, there are alternative approaches that don't cost. As Kitty points out, a significant fee will result in more people going to the less used areas. That is a good idea, to a point. After that, you end up with another area getting overused.
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Postby mattpayne11 » Wed May 12, 2010 8:04 pm

I think that a fee only makes sense. It was inevitable since people were misusing the land. This is why I preach leave-no-trace to people I with. A fee system may help. Not sure.
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Postby mconnell » Wed May 12, 2010 8:30 pm

mattpayne11 wrote:I think that a fee only makes sense. It was inevitable since people were misusing the land. This is why I preach leave-no-trace to people I with. A fee system may help. Not sure.


Why a fee system as opposed to a free permit system?
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Postby Kane » Thu May 13, 2010 1:54 am

It's sorting out who gets to go and who doesn't on the basis of money that I oppose. Why should a high-income person who thinks $20 is pocket change get to go, while a young climbing bum living out of his car - and we've all been him in our youth - can't?


The climbing bum can...

-Actually plan a visit to the Crestones and save money? If climbing the Crestones is not that important to plan your trip in advance, then climb somthing else. We always say "the mountains will be there tomorrow." That also means there's a bunch of mountains out there to climb. I don't understand why it's so difficult to plan something out for a climbing bum.

-Save up $10.00 and buy a map. Then do what most climbers do, adapt to the challange, improvise a plan to overcome the challenge, and overcome the challange. But first, the climbing bum must research the area for alternatives. There are alternatives. Since your climbing bum cannot afford to pay $20 for the beautiful Crestones, then I'll assume there is no income, then I'll assume they do not have a job, then I'll assume they have a lot of time on their hands, so an extra day of hiking from Music Pass to Cottonwood Lake shouldn't be a problem.

Aaron, it appears you oppose the extreme circumstance for the climbing bum. IMO, not worth opposing. I can afford $10-20 bucks and I'm certainly no "high income person." And most climbing bums probably can muster the $20, if they really want access.

BTW how the heck are you? Gettin out to the LCW lately. Need to check out the Shafthouse area.
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WTF

Postby seano » Thu May 13, 2010 4:22 am

$10 per day-hiker is ridiculous for a rough 4WD road to a trail half-maintained by CFI volunteers. At that rate, 40 day-hikers per week would pay for 2 full-time rangers making $10/hr.

If you want to limit traffic, offer overpriced reservations for a fixed number of free permits (like Mt. Whitney).
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Postby mattpayne11 » Thu May 13, 2010 4:27 am

mconnell wrote:
mattpayne11 wrote:I think that a fee only makes sense. It was inevitable since people were misusing the land. This is why I preach leave-no-trace to people I with. A fee system may help. Not sure.


Why a fee system as opposed to a free permit system?


Oh I'm not saying that a free permit system wouldn't work, I think there does need to be some sort of solution though.
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Postby Aaron Johnson » Thu May 13, 2010 4:28 am

Kane-PM sent.
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Re: WTF

Postby OOG » Thu May 13, 2010 4:38 am

seano wrote:$10 per day-hiker is ridiculous for a rough 4WD road to a trail half-maintained by CFI volunteers.

Well put. It would be one thing if these fees actually went to providing services to the people paying them, but this is almost never the case.
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Postby Aaron Johnson » Thu May 13, 2010 4:56 am

Well put. It would be one thing if these fees actually went to providing services to the people paying them, but this is almost never the case.


Indeed. Case after case has been documented of misappropriation of funds (putting it politely), yet this program (scam) is allowed to continue across the nation. More info is available at Western Slope No Fee (see link in my post above).
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Postby mattpayne11 » Thu May 13, 2010 1:46 pm

Didn't the Forest Service install a parking lot and campground area at the end of the road (now about 2 miles from the lakes themselves) in order to improve the area? I also believe that they made some significant improvements to the road?
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Postby Clark_Griswold » Thu May 13, 2010 6:25 pm

FortMental wrote:Over %98 of those "visitors" drive in to the lakes; close the gate to drivers and you'll count the number of yearly visitors on your fingers and toes. If they wanted to limit the number of resource users to the area, they should just close off the damn road down low. But no. It's never about protecting the resource with the FS, it's always about doing someone else's bidding to make money.

Why don't they just admit to wanting to exploit the area for profit and build a frikkin' toll booth for all those drivers?


I agree. When I backpacked up there in August of 2008 I was 1 of only a handful of people who parked at the lowest parking area in the grasslands of the Wet Valley. It seemed that nearly everyone else had driven up in their SUVs or trucks to camp in the basin. Many brought stuff that they would never have carried if they had to pack the 8? miles in that I did, or the 2 miles if the road is closed; huge tents, several coolers filled with beer, firewood from other locations. If you close the road and push the trailhead back, even if only two miles, I think that will limit the numbers in the basin.
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Postby Aaron Johnson » Fri May 14, 2010 12:08 am

ARTICLE: DAYS OF FREE FOURTEENER CLIMBING MAY BE ENDING

"This may be precedent setting..."

Colorado Springs Gazette

NATIONAL FOREST COMMENT FORM HERE
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