Don't say you didn't ask
Dan England wrote:I no longer climb nearly as many mountains as I used to thanks to my three little ones. But the five years I spent chasing the 14ers were some of the best of my life.
Those memories, to me, are priceless.
Just maybe not any longer.
I prefer to keep those priceless memories, and enjoy the splender and wildness of nature, without automated pay stations.
Dan England wrote:I can see why the Forest Service chose to float its idea of charging for access to this area first. It's worth the money.
But, I still think it is unethical to charge money for the climb. The experience may be worth $10/20 for you, but it doesn't mean that you should have to pay it. If someone were to deny you oxygen right now, there'd be no sum of money you wouldn't be willing to pay to have it back; it still isn't right to deny you oxygen, even if it is "worth" something to you (granted, apples and oranges in that analogy.
The USFS manages our forests, but they did not create the forest, or the mountains. Enjoying the wilderness ought to be an intrinsic right of every citizen of this country, and there should be no charge to enjoy these wonders under normal circumstances (hikers are not comparable to mining operations, grazing operations, etc. In essence, we do not take from the land).
Dan England wrote:By now we should know the free ride is over. It was a fun ride: I paid for access to one 14er during my quest â€” if you don't count the money I spent on gas, equipment and post-hike cheeseburgers â€” and that was $150 for the privately owned Culebra and its sister peak, Red Mountain.
I disagree. It wasn't a "ride" to begin with, and this isn't equivalent to a free day at the zoo, or Elitch Gardens (which are both man-made parks, filled with expensive "attractions" that need to be paid for). You enjoyed the mountains free of charge, and the generations of hikers who have (and will) come after you should also be afforded that opportunity.
Your mention of equipment and cheeseburgers brings to mind the emerging argument that paying access fees is a small ancillary cost when compared to the overall price of climbing a mountain. Personally, I've always resented the now-popular notion that "access fees" are such a drop in the proverbial bucket, given how much we each allegedly
spend on gear, food, and transportation.
I've seen a few recent articles (including one written by the San Isabel National Forest) that I believe are flawed in the manner in which they attempt to apply the results of that now-famous 2007 economic study of 14'ers climbing. This study might have been useful in demonstrating how climbers bring some additional money into the small mountain towns, but it certainly doesn't demonstrate that all of this money wouldn't have been spent had the people not been climbing. Plenty of folks travel for vacations that don't involve climbing, and everyone eats food on a daily basis. On top of that, if my memory serves me correctly, this study also included figures that represented the travel habits of out-of-state climbers; clearly a person who has traveled cross-country on a vacation is spending more to climb a 14'er than someone who lives 40 miles away from one. Needless to say, I've never spent the kind of money that this CSU study claims I should have!
To expand on that particular concept, I should point out that my gear is a durable product that lasts for many years, and it cost a private company money to design/produce. Moreover, I don't necessarily need to buy gear to enjoy the mountains (I'll gladly show you guys some pictures from my early backpacking days, where I wore whatever clothes I already owned -- I was one pathetic looking mountain bum, but I sure was having the time of my life, even sans Gore Tex
Next, the food issue is a bit laughable. When I'm not traveling, I still eat at home each and every day. Don't you?
It is true that the majority of us shell out some gas money to go to the mountains, but we are also buying a product for that money, and it costs money to bring that product to market. You are certainly entitled to walk to the mountains, or ride your bike, free of charge! While this doesn't always sound practical, the point I'm trying to make is simply that no one is forcing you to buy gas for your trip to the mountains. Instead, the USFS is attempting to force
you to pay to walk into the peace and quiet of a natural wilderness environment; a place where, "in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.â€ (credit the aforementioned quote to the Wilderness Act of 1964).
Dan England wrote:The rest of our 14ers need the money as well. One of my many memories of my quest comes from a climb of Kit Carson, only it's not a pleasant one. Climbers' trails, or trails made from people like me, braided the mountain like varicose veins. I remember feeling guilty as I made my way up.
The 14'ers are giant natural rock piles. What do they need money for, and how is fee collection going to protect them?
Yes, it is true that social trails aren't a desirable trait on popular mountains. But, will fee collection system stop people from walking off of a trail, or forging their own route to the summits of difficult peaks? For that matter, why won't this problem begin to solve itself as high-quality sustainable trails are built by volunteer organizations such as the Colorado Fourteener's Initiative, among others?
Even without the dedicated hard work of volunteer groups, the USFS could have made better decisions regarding the original management of this area. For instance, instead of "improving" the rough road to S. Colony Lakes (which resulted in increased visitation), they could have left the road as it was, and instead routed the money towards maintenance of the trails that you found to be so displeasing. I find it a bit interesting that an overwhelming majority of hikers seem opposed to fees, yet most of us are perfectly okay with the idea of the USFS closing the road (if necessary for the preservation of an area). Not only does that save money for the USFS, it also saves money for each of us!
Incidentally, the volunteer trails groups have spent more moeny and endured more of the grunt work in this basin than the USFS has. The USFS even admits this fact in their own publications.
Dan England wrote:But maintaining those trails will be expensive, and many other 14ers need a lot of work. Quite frankly, that's not a priority when the state is so broke that education funding is viewed as a luxury.
The whole concept of a sustainable trail would imply exactly the opposite. That is, maintaining a well-built trail shouldn't be prohibitively expensive, and there is honestly no reason to believe that these trails wouldn't be able to receive continuing maintenance from volunteer groups, and token expenditures on the part of the USFS.
For the sake of clarity, the state of Colorado is not paying for federal land.
Dan England wrote:California charges for a permit up the famous Mount Whitney. Oregon charges for a permit up Mount Rainier. We're overdue.
Make no mistake about this point, we are NOT in California (population 37 million), we are in Colorado (population 5 million). I fear the day when this state begins to become anything remotely close to what California is like. Just because it is right for California does not mean it is right for Colorado.
Also, Mt. Rainier is in WASHINGTON state, not Oregon. Aside from that little discrepancy, Mt. Rainier is also a vastly different environment than the Colorado 14'ers, and is located within a National Park; most of us have already resigned ourselves to paying for play in the developed national parks. Mt Rainier draws in FAR more climbers than the S. Colony Lakes area (10,000 annually, vs the 3,000-4,500 in S. Colony Lakes), for a climb that is much more committing. Beyond that, many climbers on Rainier climb with established guide services, on a glaciated peak with many hazards, which is usually climbed over the course of several days.
Dan England wrote:I also worry about our state's aforementioned budget crunch and if the state might dip into the â€œ14ers fund.â€
Again, not to pick on you, but the state's budget has little to do with federal land, and even less to do with wilderness (which by definition is managed through a lack of human management, in a sense).