Facilities, fees set to change at Green Mountain Reservoir | AspenTimes.com

Facilities, fees set to change at Green Mountain Reservoir

Bob Berwyn
Summit correspondent

SUMMIT COUNTY ” The U.S. Forest Service wants to raise fees, restrict ATV use and require portable toilets and firepans at some popular Green Mountain Reservoir campsites, and the proposal has already triggered criticism from some of the people who use the area.

“At this time, it’s all still proposed,” said U.S. Forest Service ranger Howard Scott, who has been involved in the management of the area for 26 years.

The agency is hoping to get a handle on increasing recreational use with a new master plan, and at the same time reach compliance with the new Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). This new law defines the Forest Service’s authority to collect fees more precisely than the controversial recreation fee demonstration program it replaces.

The Forest Service is under time pressure to complete the Green Mountain plan. Its current authority to collect fees at Green Mountain under the rec fee program expires Sept. 30.

Scott said his agency will not be able to make that deadline, and will have to stop collecting fees and offering services. Use also drops off quickly at that time.

According to Scott, the Forest Service needs to modify the facilities at Green Mountain Reservoir so they meet FLREA standards. This requires certain amenities, including designated parking, permanent toilet facilities, permanent trash bins, interpretive signs or picnic tables.

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Since the language of the law is open to some interpretation, it’s not clear how ” or if ” the various areas around Green Mountain all fit under the fee umbrella. But the act does include a catch-all “high-impact” provision that could cover the management of the reservoir, Scott said.

Under the new plan, it would cost $20 for a family to camp at the reservoir for a weekend, Scott said. But requirements for firepans and portable toilets in some areas could add to that price tag. Firepans, for example, retail for about $100, Scott said.

“I’ve used the area for 15 years. I don’t feel it’s quite fair what they’re trying to do,” said Summit County resident Tibor Horvath. “It’s very basic facilities.”

Horvath said that, if there’s no annual pass, he’s calculated that the new fees would add $400-$500 dollars to his costs, based on his average annual use of the area.

Scott said the new fee structure would pay for full staffing at the reservoir and enable the Forest Service to continue providing the basic required services and amenities.

Under the current fee structure, the area has been running at a deficit, he explained. Since the 2001 inception of the fee program at Green Mountain, the agency has collected $150,000 in revenue and has spent $400,000. Last year, for example, the Forest Service collected $42,000 ” the highest total to date.

Scott said the Forest Service doesn’t have a formal mechanism for counting visitors. But there are about 196 campgrounds around the lake, and with an average of five campers, he estimated that use could run as high as 1,000 people per day during the busy season.

Meanwhile, Heeney resident Bill Wieland penned a letter to Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton, objecting to the Forest Service plan to remove toilets from the Willows Campground. Wieland also said limitations on public access to the area could have a negative economic impact on the scattering of small businesses at the far north end of the county.

Wieland also wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns [in charge of the Forest Service] to complain that the rule change was “announced without the benefit of a public hearing as to necessity and reasonableness …”

Scott highlighted the throwback feel of the Green Mountain camping experience, explaining that there aren’t too many areas remaining in a rapidly growing state that offer dispersed camping and a lightly regulated recreational setting.

But he said inconsiderate use by a minority of campers is spoiling the experience. Conflicts among adjacent groups of campers have increased and dog issues have also cropped up more repeatedly. Most frustrating is the vandalism to the facilities, especially the toilets, Scott said, adding that a big chunk of his budget each year goes to repairing such damage.

And at least three to five times per year, RVs illegally discharge their holding tanks, he said.

A brochure detailing the Green Mountain plan is available at the Dillon Ranger District headquarters on Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne, as well as at Master Bait and Tackle in Heeney.

An open house will be held in Heeney Sept. 10 to discuss the proposed changes.