Letter: Fast-track forest fees
I love the Forest Service. I love the forest. I love Colorado. Yet I despise the latest destruction of Colorado.
Examples: the tagging (graffiti) on the Hanging Lake trail and the destruction of the Maroon Bells Wilderness. How sad. How frustrating. My heart ached like no tomorrow.
The Forest Service appears to be so slow in making decisions regarding fees when it seems (at least to this Colorado native) that these decisions are no-brainers. I just don’t get it. Charge a fee. Now.
• Hanging Lake: Require a pre-paid $10 per-person pass at the parking lot or send them away.
• Maroon Bells: require a $50 per person pass at the trailhead (those with backpacks) or send them away. (As quoted in the PI: a campsite in the Maroon Bells is more valuable than any hotel in Aspen … so maybe charge $250 per person per night.)
The PI indicated that up to 1,100 people a day go to Hanging Lake in the summer. But a permit situation with 600 people per day max is in consideration. So: 600 tickets times $10.00 = $6,000 a day. I’m pretty sure that would cover costs of an (online) reservation site plus four full-time staff members. Four full-time staff members at $40 an hour per day is $1,280 — far less than $6,000. I know Forest Service staff is lucky to make $40/hour, so there you go.
The PI also indicated that there are 20 campsites around Conundrum with an average of 2.3 people per campsite. So 2.3 people times 20 campsites times $50.00 per person = $2,300 a day. I’m pretty sure that would cover costs of an (online) reservation site plus three full-time staff members. Three full-time staff members at $40 an hour per day is $960 — far less than $2,300.
In addition to (just) making sense and supporting our forest, you will (also) have full contact information of everyone who visits these sites. You could then easily prosecute any bozo vandals within said time frame based on reservation data. And you would also not only have the money to fund staffing but additional money to enhance and maintain the areas.
We need to keep crowds under control, keep our Colorado Colorado, and keep the riff-raff from destroying nature that they don’t understand — and it all starts through a fee-for-use system.
Rocky Mountain National Park has such a system in place. I hear visitation numbers are up.
Forest Service: Please get your fee structure in place NOW, and don’t look back, and don’t hesitate.
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Less is more?