"PASSING ALONG OUR NATURAL LEGACY"
Birkland Public Affairs Officer, Beaver Creek-Sedona Ranger District
Coconino National Forest, Southwest Region
see the "Red Rock Pass" program as a tool to help us provide "quality
management and land stewardship, thereby passing on our natural
legacy," says Ken Anderson, Beaver Creek/Sedona District Ranger.
Beginning June 2000, the Forest Service will begin charging a
fee for parking to recreate on approximately 160,000 acres of
National Forest surrounding Sedona.
management is all about providing for a healthy forest, which
means insuring the quality of experience for visitors, the quality
of life for residents and supporting a healthy economy," says
increasing demand for outdoor recreation has resulted in increased
impacts to recreational facilities, natural resources, and archaeological
sites. In response to these issues, the Coconino National Forest
Plan was amended in 1998 (Amendment 12) to include proactive management
prescriptions to help improve and protect the "Red Rock Area."
Current funding levels are inadequate to
mitigate these impacts or to implement Amendment 12. Collection
of local fees, approved under the National Recreation Fee Demonstration
Program of 1996, will help the Forest Service implement its holistic
land management plan in its entirety.
A combination of quality services will
positively influence visitor behavior, reduce impacts and will
enhance the visitorís experience. Revenue will be used to provide
education and interpretive services to visitors about "Leave No
Trace" practices and "land stewardship ethics" thereby reducing
unintentional impacts to the Forest. Revenue will also be used
to increase field patrol, maintain trail and recreation facilities,
enhance wildlife habitat, improve watershed conditions, and to
generally maintain a healthy forest ecosystem.
The "Red Rock Pass," allows for vehicle
parking on the National Forest for non-commercial, recreation
purposes (hiking, mountain biking, picnicking etc.). If no vehicle
is parked, no pass will be required. This will be a recreational
use fee and not a fee for entry to the National Forest. Consequently,
no pass will be required for travel through the area, nor for
activities that are "incidental" to thru-travel, such as stopping
to take a photograph or use a restroom. The fee will apply to
the use of developed as well as undeveloped areas, due to heavy
and widely dispersed recreational use and the inadequate number
and size of existing developed sites.
Fees are currently planned at $5 per day,
$10 per week, and $30 a year. Additional features of the pass
include several cultural heritage sites with interpretative education
options available. Ninety five percent of the revenue will be
used in the red rock area to improve visitor services, maintain
recreation facilities, and protect natural resources. Expenses
will not be permitted to exceed revenue of the program. Accomplishments
and funding distribution will be shared with the public on a regular
Other Pass Programs
We are extremely pleased with the success
of the Verde Valley Heritage Fee Demonstration Program, which
includes Palatki, Honanki and V Bar V cultural sites. Over the
past three years, these sites have been opened up to the public
for daily visitation. Since fees were implemented, vandalism has
been reduced by 80 percent and critical restoration improvements
have been made. Without the fee revenue, we could not have provided
these services and achieved these successes. Volunteer partnerships
continue to provide a large portion of this support.
Other successful Fee Demonstration/Pass
programs in Arizona include the Prescott Basin, Mingus Snow Play,
Ten X Campground, Santa Catalina, Lemon Rock Lookout, Superstition
Wilderness and Roosevelt Lake. Arizona visitors who once questioned
the need for fees in these locations now strongly support the
program based on improved services, positive improvements and
their quality of experience.
Human impacts on the environment are often
unnoticed to the casual observer and yet these impacts accumulate
into significant problems. For example, the next time you visit
your favorite scenic location, take notice at the numerous unmarked
trails and/or newly created roads leading into the forest. First
time visitors to the area often take the wrong trails, unknowingly,
contributing further to these impacts. New trails are being created
daily, both in popular scenic areas and in less frequented areas
leading from local neighborhoods. Our current Forest Service work
force and volunteer efforts are just not enough to adequately
protect these areas from increasing vegetation damage, wildlife
habitat impacts and soil erosion. As outlined in the management
plan, Amendment 12, these impacts must be prevented and areas
must be restored.
The volunteer trail restoration project
near Bell Rock/Courthouse Loop is one example of positive trail
improvements desperately needed (see photograph reference). Approximately
200 miles of trail in the Sedona area need routine maintenance
and restoration. With appropriated funds, trails receiving needed
attention are limited. Revenue from the "Red Rock Pass" program
will help fund additional "land stewardship" programs on a regular
Sharing conservation messages and environmental
education with our forest visitors will help to decrease human
impacts. Our experience tells us that if individuals are only
aware of their potential impacts and what their alternative choices
are, they are willing to modify their behavior.
The Red Rock Pass program is one of the
tools to help us achieve the holistic management plan as identified
in the Forest Service and community vision of Amendment 12. With
increasing demand for outdoor recreation, impacts are increasing.
The local economy, the quality of life, and the visitor experience
are largely dependent upon the condition of the National Forest.
We thank you for your comments, suggestions,
stewardship, and support. Let us preserve the opportunity to "pass
on our natural legacy" for generations to come.