Day-use fees not welcome by all
SUMMIT COUNTY – The newly implemented day-use fees required at several sites around Dillon reservoir has infuriated residents and tourists alike.
This summer, a $6 fee is required for picnickers and day-users at Giberson, Pine Cove and Heaton Bay. It’s not a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) fee, though the areas fall under the jurisdiction of the White River National Forest.
The USFS has hired a concessionaire, Thousand Trails, Inc., to maintain the areas, and it is they who collect the user fees.
According to Howard Scott, recreation technician for the Dillon Ranger District, most amenities on USFS land are old and in need of maintenance. But due to cutbacks, the USFS does not have the money to handle those needs.
“Appropriated funds do not address that need anymore,” Scott said.
Enter the concessionaire.
Scott likens the USFS relationship with Thousand Trails, Inc. to one between landlord and tenant, in which the concessionaire takes care of the “day-to-day routine maintenance.”
Silverthorne resident Rick Post said he understands the campground fee, but he has a hard time justifying a fee for day-use areas.
During the summer, Post often parks his car at the Pine Cove day-use area before carrying his kayak to the water. He said he’s never used the facilities – the Dumpster or the toilets.
“I feel like these people are making money, at least on the campground side of it,” Post said. “I can’t believe they don’t have enough to provide free day-use.”
But Garland Young, area manager for the Thousand Trails Dillon/Holy Cross District, said the fees are necessary to keep the area clean. Young recently wrote the Summit Daily to explain it costs $4,000 a summer to provide basic maintenance operations, including hiring employees to clean the restroom, for trash pickup, cleaning supplies and toilet paper and pumping out the vaults twice a season.
“They’re not getting rich,” Scott said, explaining he has direct control over the concessionaire.
“I have a say in how much the fee is,” he said. “It has to be reasonable.”
Scott said the only alternative to hiring the concessionaire is closing the areas.
Some user-fee opponents suggest this might send a message to Washington D.C., but Scott disagrees.
“I think (closing) would be penalizing the people who use those sites,” he said. “And I think Congress knows that we are operating with financial challenges.”
While Post opposes the day-use fee, he said he doesn’t want to see the areas closed, either. He wonders if the problem might be resolved if the USFS cut back on their facilities.
Colorado opponents to USFS user-fees are gathering today, between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., at Echo Lake, just before the Mt. Evans toll station. They represent one of numerous protest gatherings across the nation in an annual national protest against user fees.
Scott said he knows some people want to see local campgrounds run with tax dollars, but that’s not always possible anymore – financially or legally. Once a campground is operated by a concessionaire, it must stay under concessionaire operation, he said.
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