Wasatch Environmental Update for September 4, 2016
By John Worlock, Member of the Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons
“Paying for Playing in the Cottonwood Canyons”
Local Forest Service officials recently announced a plan that would alleviate two of the pressing problems that bedevil the administration of their popular recreation sites in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. They seek our comment on their proposal to impose site fees for parking at any of nine trailheads and the Silver Lake recreation complex. You can easily guess which trailheads would be affected, as they are the ones that are crowded, more or less throughout the year.
Site fees are allowed under the authority of the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act, and have been long enforced along the Mirror Lake Highway and in American Fork Canyon.
The hope is that this new program will reduce the automotive traffic in the Cottonwood Canyons while simultaneously providing funds for the improvement and maintenance of the recreational facilities served by those sites. 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 fees 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 for skiers, snowshoers, bicyclists and hikers.
We can cry out our anguish that we have already paid taxes for the public lands’ upkeep. But we should send those cries to the Congress, which has systematically starved not only the Forest Service but also the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, all of which have serious backlogs of upkeep.
Meanwhile, time is running out for your comments on this proposal. The Forest Service will accept comments through next Friday, September 9. With a little bit of internet savvy, you can chase down and study their announcement on the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest website (CLICK HERE). But you may more simply address your comments to Matt Lane, at the Salt Lake Ranger District, 801-733-2662, with email address, and we’ll spell it out: M A L A N E at F D dot F E D dot U S.