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South Colony Fees

Colorado 14ers access and fee issues only, please
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South Colony Fees

Postby D8S » Fri May 07, 2010 7:46 pm

The Forest Service recently announced its intention to charge fees in South Colony lakes.

http://www.wetmountaintribune.com/home.asp?i=540&p=7

Although there does not appear to be any information on the FS website, the article describes the fee as a Special Recreation Fee, a type of fee intended for special uses like group activities and special events, not normal activities like backpacking. It also describes the fee as $10 per person per day for day trips, and $20 per person per trip for overnight trips. Since there does not seem to be a quota on the number of permits issued, it is unclear whether the Forest Service's intent is to decrease visitation or simply raise revenue. In either case, the first to be excluded will be those least able to pay the fees.

If the fees are likely to change whether or not you visit Custer County (Westcliffe, etc) and/or the amount of money you spend while you're there, I'm sure the Custer County commissioners would like to hear from you. You can reach them at:

Lynn Attebery Email:lynn@custercountygov.com
Jim Austin Email:jim@custercountygov.com
Carole Custer Email:carole@custercountygov.com

As suggested by tthe Environmental Assessment, the fees are also likely to disperse / increase impacts to other drainages, which in the end may actually increase Forest Service management costs.

For questions about the proposal, and to submit public comments, contact Mike Smith at the San Carlos Ranger District at 3028 E. Main in Canon City, phone (719) 269-8500.

Before any fees can be implemented, the Forest Service needs the approval of the Recreation Resource Advisory Committee, which is not likely to meet until next year. So for this year, South Colony Lakes should be safe from fees. To protect access for future visitors, please contact the Forest Service and ask them not to implement the South Colony Lakes Fees, and the Custer County Commissioners to ask them to oppose the fees.

Dave

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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby kaiman » Sat May 08, 2010 6:09 pm

Thanks for the info D85.

I need to get back down to the SDC and climb the Crestones (as well as a few other 13ers I've had my eye on), so I will definitely put in my 2 cents with the commissioners. While I feel that some sort of fee may be appropriate due to the amount of use the area gets and the money that is spent to do trail building, erosion control, etc. $20 bucks a night pp seems a bit much...

Hopefully some middle ground can be reached.

kaiman
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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby randalmartin » Sun May 09, 2010 5:21 pm

My main concern is that any fees raised directly support South Colony Lakes area and not go into some general use fund.

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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby michaelverdone » Sun May 09, 2010 10:58 pm

Was there any research presented that substantiated the $20 fee?

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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby cindyh » Tue May 11, 2010 8:52 am

There are two documents that I picked up regarding the proposed fees. One is a News Release - Draft 5/4/10 and the other is entitled South Colony Basin Recreation Fee Proposal. Rates in nearby Alvarado Campground are from $17.00 per night per campsite, so these proposed fees are excessive. NRS surchages for online reservations may run an additional $10 per reservation. You have an opportunity to make your voices heard. The draft release indicates that over 50% of visitors have a primary residence in the Denver metro area, followed by residents of El Paso County. Make your voices heard through both to Custer County and FS channels.
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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby MountainHiker » Tue May 11, 2010 10:15 am

randalmartin wrote:My main concern is that any fees raised directly support South Colony Lakes area and not go into some general use fund.

I’m concerned how much of the fee will go straight to whatever company got the concession. How much will that company put back into the site verses how much the tax payers will still fund?

I’m more concerned the finite number of camp sites will be booked as soon as reservations open for the season. When the pay parking lot is full will you then be greeted with a bunch of no-parking signs and fences along the road?
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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby P Why » Tue May 11, 2010 10:33 am

Based on the link from the local newspaper, this won't be oficially debated until "early 2011" which should mean no issues with access this summer. Or am I mistaken?

If this happens it is not only a financial barrier to access the Crestones, but a logistical one as well. Can't just change your plans and show up, need to make reservations... probably way in advance.

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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby Nathan Hale » Tue May 11, 2010 12:56 pm

$10 for day trips seems excessive. Based on previous things that the forest service has said the intent is mostly to reduce impact, with an added benefit of raising revenue to cover costs. If a fee is charged, $5 seems like it would have more or less the same impact on use that $10 does. Frankly, with the construction/repair of trails in the area and the road closure greatly increasing the effort required, I believe that no fee is really needed to reduce impacts.

But I think some people in this thread are inventing things with no supporting evidence, at least none that was linked to here. No outside concessionaire, no reservations, no pay parking lot, etc. In all likelihood it would be like fee areas in other parts of the state with a self-service station where you pick up a permit.

People should speak up to register their opposition to the fees, but that will be a lot more effective if we stick to the facts and argue against it based on those.
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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby D8S » Tue May 11, 2010 4:24 pm

For everyone's info, here is the press release. I have highlighted some of the parts and added a few comments.

NEWS RELEASE
USDA Forest ServiceRocky Mountain RegionPike & San Isabel National Forests, Cimarron & Comanche National GrasslandsSan Carlos Ranger District3028 East Main St.Canon City, CO 81212http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/psicc/sanc

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts: Barb Timock, Public Affairs Officer – 719-553-1415Paul Crespin, District Ranger – 719-269-8701or Mike Smith, Forester – 719-269-8704

U.S FOREST SERVICE PROPOSES FEES FOR SOUTH COLONY BASIN
RECREATION AREA IN CUSTER COUNTY

CANON CITY, Colo., May 11, 2010…The U. S. Forest Service – San Isabel National Forests, San Carlos District is seeking public comments on a proposal to initiate a permit and fee system for recreational access to South Colony Basin and the surrounding 14,000-foot peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Range of Custer County. If approved, implementation of a permit and fee system in South Colony Basin would likely begin in 2011 or 2012.

South Colony Basin, located about 12 miles southwest of Westcliffe, CO, is the most popular backcountry destination in the Sangre de Cristo Range. Most visitors to the basin are climbers on a quest to reach the summits of the surrounding 14,000 foot peaks: Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle and Humboldt Peak.

Managing recreational use and protecting the environment in South Colony Basin presents the USFS with many challenges not found in other backcountry locations; such as maintaining costly summit trails, restoring degraded alpine ecosystems, supporting search and rescue operations, and dealing with human waste. Revenue from the proposed recreation use fees will help to sustain the recreational facilities and environmental protections in the basin.

The Forest Service’s preliminary fee proposal would require visitors to obtain a special recreation permit for access to South Colony Basin and the adjoining summit trails. The permit fee would be $10 per person per trip for day trips, and $20 per person per trip for overnight trips. The permit and fee requirements would be in effect annually from May 15 through October 15. Users under the age of 18 would be exempt. Permits would be available on-line, at local USFS offices, and at the trailhead for those with exact change.
-more-

Comments or concerns about the proposed fee levels, the methods for obtaining a permit, or how the revenues will be used in South Colony Basin should be mailed to: San Carlos Ranger District, Attn: Mike Smith, 3028 E. Main Street, Canon City, CO 81212 or call, 719-269-8704.

Additional information, a map of the proposed fee area, and a comment form can be found at
http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/psicc/sanc/

Trailhead register data indicate 3,500 to 4,500 persons visit the small basin at the head of the South Colony drainage during each summer season. The majority of visitors come from the Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs metro areas. Visitation has been increasing by 3 to 5% per year since the early 1990s.

(this means that revenue would be expected to be at least $35,000 annually, and likely more. The press release does not give the number of visitors who stay overnight, although with the road closure, the number of overnight visitors could be expected to increase. $90,000/year is theoretically possible - Dave)

As Colorado’s Front Range cities are projected to add another one million citizens by the year 2020, so also use of South Colony Basin is expected to rise. Weekend use is significantly higher than on weekdays. On average, 30-50 persons are in the basin on a typical summer weekday, with 80-150 persons on typical weekends. On occasional peak weekends, well over 200 persons may be in the basin. Most climbers set up a base camp in the basin for one or two nights while ascending the surrounding peaks.

According to Forest Service numbers, national forest visitation is down 5% in Colorado.

Since 1996, the USFS has worked in partnership with several non-profit educational and environmental service organizations to reconstruct trails and climbing routes within the basin, and to restore alpine slopes that have eroded under cross-country travel. To date, over 40,000 volunteer hours and nearly $1,000,000, of mostly non-federal funds, have been spent restoring long-term recreational impacts, rebuilding the lower road, constructing trailhead facilities and creating sustainable summit trails in South Colony Basin.

I'm not sure how others feel, but paying on April 15th, (Forest Service appropriations are up again) paying again when I volunteer, and then being told to pay a fee to use what I've helped to create doesn't sit very well with me.

The recently constructed summit trails and stabilized alpine slopes will require regular maintenance to protect the public and private investment in these restoration treatments. Funding opportunities through private foundations for continued trail maintenance and slope restoration are very limited. Relying on recreation use fees appears to be the best option for providing future high quality backcountry experiences and protecting the natural environment.

The Recreation Fee Demonstration Program allows the USFS to collect recreation use fees to offer recreational opportunities, protect natural resources and provide for the health and safety of visitors.

The Recreational Fee Demonstration Program ended on December 8th, 2004, and was replaced with the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA, REA)

-end-

A few comments.

randalmartin wrote
My main concern is that any fees raised directly support South Colony Lakes area and not go into some general use fund.


No promises. The law says that fees are to stay where they are collected, but the Forest Service has several ways of taking funding from the area. One is simply to claim that other areas are part of the same area - Alvarado Campground, for example - and then use the money there. The other is offsetting, where once fees are established, the funding that the district used to spend at South Colony Lakes is redirected somewhere else, meaning that the public is paying more (taxes and fees) but South Colony Lakes gets no more funding than it had before.

michaelverdone wrote:
Was there any research presented that substantiated the $20 fee?


Typically, the Forest Service compares fees at other places, such as Sand Dunes, and prices the same. There has been a noted increase in "ratcheting" where one place raises its fees to be "comparable" to another, then they take turns increasing their fees to stay the same.

cindyh wrote:
Rates in nearby Alvarado Campground are from $17.00 per night per campsite, so these proposed fees are excessive.


Good comparison.

NRS surchages for online reservations may run an additional $10 per reservation.


I have not seen the fee proposal, so I am not sure that reservations are proposed. However, Cindy is correct in stating that there is typically a $9 -$12 fee for placing a reservation, of which the majority goes to the concessionaire (Ticketmaster) for managing the reservation.

MountainHiker wrote:
I’m concerned how much of the fee will go straight to whatever company got the concession. How much will that company put back into the site verses how much the tax payers will still fund?


Mountain hiker, you're way ahead of the curve. I'm guessing that the Forest Service will manage this for a while, although you are correct that many fee programs have been handed over to concessionaires. Check out Aaron Johnson's video about the concessionaire running the trailhead for Spanish Peaks.

I’m more concerned the finite number of camp sites will be booked as soon as reservations open for the season. When the pay parking lot is full will you then be greeted with a bunch of no-parking signs and fences along the road?

Probably.

P Why wrote:

Based on the link from the local newspaper, this won't be oficially debated until "early 2011" which should mean no issues with access this summer. Or am I mistaken?


Other than the issue of the road closure, probably not.

If this happens it is not only a financial barrier to access the Crestones, but a logistical one as well. Can't just change your plans and show up, need to make reservations... probably way in advance.


If a reservation system is set up, there won't just be financial and logistical barriers, but safety concerns as well. How many of us have climbed on days when we should have waited for conditions to improve, but didn't have a reservation for the extra day?

Nathan Hale wrote:

$10 for day trips seems excessive. Based on previous things that the forest service has said the intent is mostly to reduce impact, with an added benefit of raising revenue to cover costs. If a fee is charged, $5 seems like it would have more or less the same impact on use that $10 does. Frankly, with the construction/repair of trails in the area and the road closure greatly increasing the effort required, I believe that no fee is really needed to reduce impacts.


$5 would put it in line with Indian Peaks Wilderness, which is much closer to Denver. But realistically, the Forest Service is jumping the gun, since we don't know how much of an impact the increased hiking distance will have on visitation. You may well be right - no fee may be needed to decrease impacts.

But I think some people in this thread are inventing things with no supporting evidence, at least none that was linked to here. No outside concessionaire, no reservations, no pay parking lot, etc. In all likelihood it would be like fee areas in other parts of the state with a self-service station where you pick up a permit. People should speak up to register their opposition to the fees, but that will be a lot more effective if we stick to the facts and argue against it based on those.


Unfortunately, speculation will occur until the Forest Service is open about their intentions, including the long term. But I agree that working from a factual basis is a must.

Cindyh wrote:
You have an opportunity to make your voices heard. The draft release indicates that over 50% of visitors have a primary residence in the Denver metro area, followed by residents of El Paso County. Make your voices heard through both to Custer County and FS channels.


Well said.

Dave

Re: South Colony Fees

Postby traderaaron » Tue May 11, 2010 5:05 pm

Comments after reading the above press release.

Who really maintains costly summit trails, the NFS or groups like CFI?

Who does search and rescue, the NFS or Custer County SAR/sheriff's office?

There may well be cause for some additional ways to limit impact on the area but I am not sure the NFS is the best custodian nor the sole custodian necessary and their motives and the carrying out of new restrictions often leave wilderness users frustrated and increasingly separated from that wilderness.

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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby bonehead » Wed May 12, 2010 7:31 am

traderaaron is right on.
The South Colony area has been a FS pet project for years.
No amount of input from us is going to change the direction they are already set upon.
They pulled off the road closure with barely a whimper from the public, everyone just seemed to grab the old ankles.
Look for much the same output on this current issue.
And with that success, look for more road closures and restrictions in the rest of the range.
BTW, where did the money come from for all the grand new campsites they built at the road closure that is now the accepted UTH.

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Re: South Colony Fees

Postby Jim Davies » Wed May 12, 2010 8:04 am

traderaaron wrote:Who really maintains costly summit trails, the NFS or groups like CFI?

Rocky Mountain Field Institute has been doing trail construction and maintenance in South Colony Lakes for the past eight years or so. While most of their work is done by volunteers, they do have a $380K annual budget (total, including other projects) of which about 40% comes from government grants. I wouldn't be surprised if the government funded over $35K of trail work in South Colony Lakes last year, plus there's the money spent on the road, parking, and campground.

$10 per person per day might be a little low, compared to the actual cost of running that area.
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