US Forest Service Trailhead Fees Proposal

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As you have likely heard by now, the US Forest Service has proposed adding a fee to many popular trailheads throughout the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

A public comment period is open until Wed., Sept. 7 and we encourage everyone to make their voice heard. The USFS is particularly interested in comments that address fees at specific sites. 

Here is a brief recap of the proposal and how it will affect areas throughout the Wasatch:

  • A $10 fee would be good for three consecutive days. You would also be able to purchase a $60 annual forest-wide pass or an $80 “America the Beautiful” pass, which covers all federal recreation fee areas across the country, including national forests in the other states.
  • The fee would apply to locations with developed amenities like toilets, picnic tables, parking, fishing access and trash collection. This would include Mill D, Mill B, Spruces and White Pine but does not include trailheads like Butler and Mineral Forks and Grizzly Gulch. 
  • Money would be deposited into steel tubes similar to those already in place in the Uintas. 
  • It is estimated the program would raise an additional $1 million per year. 95% of the fees paid would remain with the forest and be used to maintain the sites and facilities and could be leveraged into grants to improve trailheads and surrounding areas, according to Forest Supervisor David Whittekiend. 

The Wasatch Backcountry Alliance is well aware of USFS’ stagnant budgets in the face of escalating visitor impact and deterioration of facilities and sites. But we do have concerns.

These concerns include:

  • Selecting only certain sites to be fee-based could potentially push users to non-fee sites that could intensify use in the areas accessed by those sites where avalanche danger is greater and there are fewer parking spaces.
  • Where does enforcement start and end in places where roadside parking acts as overflow such as Spruces, Mill D, Mill B and White Pine? Will more roadside parking be the result?
  • Will snow removal costs be used from the generated funds?  
  • Has a sno-park permit system been considered such as those in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington?
  • How do we ensure “America the Beautiful” pass fees support local sites?
  • Passes are for single vehicles; how do multiple car households manage a single pass?
  • Will the fees collected allow the USFS to permit shuttle companies to drop off and pick up people to help reduce congestion and parking conflicts in the canyons? 
  • The LCC EIS outcome remains uncertain and tolling is a component of either preferred alternative; how does tolling affect the fee proposal? Will the USFS be the beneficiary of some portion of those funds? Will users be charged twice?
  • Will there be more toilets at trailheads, or out in the popular drainages?
  • We would like to see at least a partial – ideally a full – summary or proposal of where the local FS Ranger District will target spending these new funds.  

Learn more about the program from the Forest Service, Salt Lake Tribune and KSL.

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