Fees at Maroon Bells trigger threatening letter | AspenTimes.com

Fees at Maroon Bells trigger threatening letter

The Aspen Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service has received a threatening letter in response to the agency’s proposal to charge fees for use of the Maroon Valley.

Aspen District Ranger Rob Iwamoto said the letter was handwritten on half of an 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper, and postmarked at the Aspen post office on Aug. 14. It was received at the Ranger District office on Monday, Aug. 16.

The letter writer threatened to shoot up the Ranger District office, Iwamoto said. “It’s an ultimatum letter that is threatening,” he said. “That’s all I can tell you.” He said that the agency has no choice but to take the threat seriously, out of concern for the staff at the office.

The full text of the letter was not released. It is evidence in a case now under investigation by federal law enforcement officials, Iwamoto said.

The user fee plan, called a Recreation Fee Demonstration Project, was announced in May. It is intended to fund operations and maintenance of facilities at the Maroon Bells, but not for recent construction projects there.

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Fee amounts have not been set, but daily fees of $10 per car and $2 per non-motorized user have been suggested, with $50 and $20 suggested as annual pass rates for those users, respectively.

The fees are thought to be necessary because Congress has reduced appropriations for recreational use of the national forests. New legislation enables 80 percent of fees to be used in the immediate area where they are collected, and in fact in areas where this type of program is already in effect, 95 percent of the money collected at a particular site is returned to that site.

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