Forest Service floats plan for Green Mtn. Reservoir camping |

Forest Service floats plan for Green Mtn. Reservoir camping

Special to the DailyDillon Ranger District officials will present a new management plan for the lands around Green Mountain Reservoir on Saturday from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Lower Blue Community Center/Fire Station near Heeney.

SUMMIT COUNTY – The long-running fight over fees on national forests will come into sharp focus this weekend, when Dillon Ranger District officials present a new management plan for the lands around Green Mountain Reservoir.The plan will include increased fees and more tightly managed recreational use.On one hand, Forest Service officials have said they are seeking input from users to help finalize the plan. On the other hand, a brochure distributed by the agency presents the new plan as more or less a done deal, asking users to “review these rules and be prepared for changes next year.”That contradiction doesn’t sit well with Cara York, owner of Master Bait and Tackle, the small general store in Heeney where campers and anglers stock up on last-minute essentials. York said she thinks the agency should have worked more closely with local residents and business owners to develop the plan.According to York, the Forest Service used to work more closely with residents and business owners in Heeney, but in recent years, cooperation has dwindled. She singled out the Dillon Ranger District’s Howard Scott as a business- and community-minded ranger who tried to make sure locals were in the loop.”But they’ve taken the management out of his hands,” York said. “The Forest Service doesn’t work with us. We used to be able to sell the passes, but they stopped, I don’t know why.”

In previous years, Scott was also able to use volunteer crews to meet some of the management challenges in the area, exchanging volunteer hours for use privileges, but the volunteer program was ended by the Dillon Ranger District this year.Scott said he had been promised a full management crew for the area, eliminating the need for volunteers, but the funding never materialized, so the agency was short-handed all summer.York also expressed concerns about impacts to her business from some of the proposed changes. At the top of her list is the removal of toilets from the Willows campground, the proposed requirement for campers to provide their own portable latrines as well as portable fire rings for some locations.York said she doesn’t think campers will abide by those requirements and questions whether the Forest Service will be able or willing to enforce them. “A lot of the people who come up here from Denver aren’t going to be able to afford that equipment,” she said (portable fire rings and latrines can cost up to several hundred dollars). “A lot of them can barely afford to get their families out the door and up here for a weekend of camping. I think a lot of them will just find somewhere else to go.”She is worried that the Forest Service proposal to limit the number of campers in assigned sites will also cut down on the overall number of users, potentially affecting sales at her store and at other local businesses.The Forest Service also plans to completely close the Prairie Point campground, just across the water from McDonald Flats, except for a short time in the fall during Kokanee snagging season, when it would be open for vehicles.

As outlined in the Forest Service brochure, camping at Cow Creek North and South would only be allowed in designated sites above the high-water mark, with firepan and portable toilet requirements in the beach area below the high-water mark.Under the proposed plan, camping will require two fees; a standard $10 vehicle fee good for five days and an overnight camping fee of $5 per vehicle, per day. The agency also seeks to establish quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at the campgrounds around the reservoir.Forest Service officials have said the growing problems with sanitation and camper behavior have led to serious public-safety concerns, including broken glass in the water and free-running dogs. More intensive management is needed, and the only way to pay for that is to up the fees.Scott said the new fee structure would enable the agency to fully staff the area with a summer crew.Critics of the federal land recreation fee program question whether the Forest Service has authority to charge for use of relatively primitive camping facilities like those at Green Mountain Reservoir, pointing out that the authorizing legislation requires agencies to provide specific facilities.Under its own interpretation of the law, the agency has determined it can charge fees in catch-all “high impact” areas, but watchdog groups like the Colorado-based West Slope No Fee Coalition have said the enabling legislation doesn’t include any provision for such a category.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at Meeting• What: To discuss the Green Mountain Reservoir Recreation Master Plan• When: Saturday from 7-8:30 p.m.• Where: Lower Blue Community Center/Fire Station near Heeney

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