Parking camping fees could rise in national forest land near Steamboat

Officials of the Routt National Forest near Steamboat Springs are soliciting public comments regarding fee increases they have proposed at nearly three dozen recreation sites to fund improvements and deferred maintenance.

Across the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, which are jointly administered, there are 93 recreation sites where fee increases are being proposed, 33 of them in Colorado. The Medicine Bow National Forest is located in Wyoming and is contiguous with the Routt on the Colorado side of the state line. The public comment period began in June.

“We have received over 75 comments from the public so far and hope there is more to come,” said Kristi Murphy, recreation program manager, in a news release. “We want to hear from you.”

Aaron Voos, public affairs specialist for the Medicine Bow and Routt, said the vast majority of the proposed increases would be for campgrounds or rental cabins where fees already are charged.

“We are millions of dollars behind on deferred maintenance on those sites,” Voos said. “We can take the vast majority of that money and put it right back into those local facilities.”

At a few sites on the list, there currently are no fees, but the forest service is proposing fees to fund improvements. One example is a site on the eastern side of Rabbit Ears Pass where visitors have been parking in the summer for a 2.5-mile hike to the famous Rabbit Ears rock formation. Improvements there would include adding a vault toilet, picnic tables and trash service. The proposed fee at that trailhead would be $5.

“The reason that we’re proposing charging a fee there is that it just gets heavy, heavy use with people parking at that location,” Voos said. “It was never designed or intended for that, but that’s where people are congregating and parking, which is fine, so we’re trying to accommodate that by putting money into services there. In order to do that, we’ll need to charge a day-use fee.”

At the nearby Dumont Lake campground, officials are proposing a fee increase from $12 to $26 to repair hand-pump wells, replace old picnic tables, repair cement support structures and replace fire rings. Two old wooden vault toilets would be replaced by a new vault toilet.

“There are some signs that would be replaced,” according to a forest service explanation of the proposed changes at Dumont Lake. “Porcupines and snowmobiles are an annual source of damage to signs in this area.”

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