Wasatch Environmental Update for May 29, 2016
By John Worlock, Member of the Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons
“Paying for Parking in the Cottonwood Canyons”
We were not surprised when local Forest Service officials recently announced plans to start imposing fees for parking at ten popular recreation sites in both Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. After all, for some years now, they have been charging similar fees for recreational parking at sites along the Mirror Lake Highway, and at some special sites in American Fork Canyon.
The recently completed Mountain Accord, a multi-year and many-stakeholder agreement for organizing the future of the Central Wasatch, and especially the Cottonwood Canyons, concluded that something must be done about the automotive traffic and parking. One of the ideas discussed at length was to impose fees for recreational parking.
Another strong motivation for this program was the need for funds to preserve and even improve the recreational facilities served by the parking lots. The trails need constant upkeep because of foot traffic, erosion and even, believe it or not, vandalism. Signage helps people find their destinations, and parking lots can be redesigned to accommodate cars more efficiently.
One very successful local agreement allows Salt Lake County to collect for traffic in Mill Creek Canyon, with the proceeds used to improve parking but also to allow the Forest Service to perform upkeep on the picnic tables, the restrooms and the many trails that are popular through the year for skiers, snowshoers, bicyclists and hikers.
Now we hear the same cries that we heard when the earlier parking-fee programs were launched. The criers say that they are tax-paying citizens and that they should not be charged again for the use of what is their property.
The sad answer to that is that recent federal administrations and congresses have been systematically starving their own land managers. It’s not only the Forest Service, but it’s also the Bureau of Land Management, along with the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The need for this new local parking fee should provide the impetus for a concerted effort to ask our local Utah delegation to Congress to work toward better funding for federal land management.