On Oct. 2, the Tonto Pass Program will be implemented, replacing automated fee collection machines on the forest.
"This new daily-use recreation pass program will change the way visitors purchase recreation passes to visit more than 50 recreation sites located in the forest," said Delvin Lopez, public service group leader.
"A forest team spent the last year studying how to better serve our recreation visitors with increased customer convenience and reduced program costs."
Passes went on sale Sept. 25. The daily use fee is $6 per vehicle hangtag and $4 for each watercraft sticker.
Tonto daily use passes will be attached to the rearview mirror. Watercraft use stickers will be attached to the daily pass for each boat that is towed, or otherwise hauled, to one of the recreation sites of the chain of lakes on the Salt and Verde rivers. Each pass is good for a 24-hour visit.
Several passes must be used for multiple-day visits.
The Tonto Pass Program provides opportunities to purchase daily passes and watercraft stickers near visitors' homes at a time convenient to them -- or at a variety of locations on the way to their forest destination. Several retail vendors have agreed to work in partnership with the forest, providing over 80 outlets where the passes and stickers can be purchased. Many outlets are in the Phoenix metropolitan area and nearby forest locations, with others in Tucson, Flagstaff, Prescott, Casa Grande, Globe and Payson. Vendors at this time include Bartlett Lake Marina, Butcher Hook Store, Big 5 Sporting Goods (21 of 25 AZ locations), Canyon Lake Marina, Circle K Stores, Hwy. 188 Tackle and Supply, Jake's Corner Store, Kilmer's Kountry Store, Orange Food Store #8, The Tackle Box, and Tortilla Flat.
Other vendors are expected to join the program in the future.
Using the Tonto National Forest Web site, customers can order passes and stickers directly from the forest by telephone or by mail using credit cards and debit cards.
"We think our customers are really going to appreciate the convenience of buying several passes and stickers in advance and then using them as they need them," said Lopez. "The passes don't become ‘active' until the customer has actually arrived at the recreation site and validates it. Only then does the 24-hour recreation-use period begin."
Currently, use fees are paid at recreation sites using automated fee collection machines that accept cash or credit cards. Although this system has been successful, the pass system is expected to provide enhanced customer satisfaction.
To learn more about the Tonto Pass Program and to find locations where visitors can purchase daily passes and watercraft use stickers, call Tonto Basin Ranger District at (928) 467-3200 or visit www.fs.fed.us/ r3/tonto.