By Charles Pekow — Would you be willing to pay to park your car at a trailhead in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest? Would you feel better about it if you knew the money collected would be earmarked for maintenance and improvement of the local trails?
The Salt Lake Ranger District is proposing to collect fees for parking at the trailheads in its domain. These include the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons; specifically the Mill B South, Cardiff/Mill D South, Donut Falls, Spruces Winter, Guardsman Pass, White Pine, Catherine’s Pass, Cecret Lake and Temple Quarry trailheads. Several of these are popular parking spots for mountain bikers. Under law, the United States Forest Service (USFS) cannot charge for admission as the National Park Service can. While USFS can’t collect a fee for driving or riding a bike into its land, it can charge for parking and restrict parking to designated fee-for-parking zones.
USFS is taking public comment on its proposal, which tentatively calls for a $6 three-day pass or $45 for an annual one good at all Cottonwood Canyons locations. Cottonwod Canyons passes would have reciprocal rights with the passes for American Fork Canyon and Mirror Lake Scenic Byway standard-amenity fee sites.
USFS promises and law requires that the it use any fees collected at Cottonwood Canyons solely for operations, maintenance and improvements there – the money won’t go toward paying down the national debt or financing overseas wars. USFS would not start collecting fees until next June, as it is required to take public comments first then give a six-months notice.
USFS says it may change the amount of the fees, depending on need and public comments. Send your thoughts by Sept. 9 to David Whittekiend, forest supervisor, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, 857 W. South Jordan Pkwy., South Jordan, UT 84095. For details see https://goo.gl/o01Bgd
And remember, if USFS does start collecting fees, trail users should keep tabs on how much it collects and how it spends the funds. Don’t hesitate to ask what it’s doing or suggest ideas.