Fee for Fourteeners?
the denver post
The toll for scaling some of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks could soon be more than just sweat and aching muscles.
The U.S. Forest Service is floating a plan to charge hikers a fee and require a permit to access the heavily trafficked South Colony Basin, a popular launching point for four fourteeners in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The proposal would use $10 and $20 fees to help maintain $1 million in recently finished trail improvements and protect the 1,500-acre basin’s alpine terrain. And it’s being eyed by other land managers struggling with the impact Colorado’s 500,000 annual fourteener-climbers have on the mountains.
“If we are successful, there are probably a handful of other places that would be interested
in pursuing the same course,” said Mike Smith, forester with the San Isabel National Forest, who is gathering public input for his pay-to-play plan. “It’s just a proposal at this point. We are running it up the flagpole to see who salutes and who shoots at it.”
Smith is ready for the blasting. Knowing that opponents tend to be the most clamorous, Smith said he’d be “ecstatic” if he received “reluctant support” from 20 percent of those who deliver their thoughts on the proposal.
“The Forest Service didn’t create the mountains and they have no right to charge to access them,” said Kitty Benzar, president of the Western Slope No Fee Coalition in Durango, which opposes fees for recreation in unimproved wilderness areas already supported by taxes. “The Forest Service has never shown an inclination toward restraint when it comes to fees. They see fees as a way to discourage use, and that’s not very democratic.”
If the plan reaches fruition, it would be the first permit program among Colorado’s 53 14,000-foot peaks on public land. Culebra Peak, about 30 miles farther south in the Sangre de Cristo range, is privately owned and requires a permit and fee.
Read more at http://www.denverpost.com/ci_15095017
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