Tonto Pass Good Until 2010

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October 2007 marks the one-year anniversary of the Tonto Pass and many recreationers are still having trouble using it properly.

The Tonto Pass program was established to provide an easier and more reliable way for recreationers to frequent lakes and recreation areas in the Tonto National Forest, Dave Killebrew, recreation planner for the TNF said.

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Campers using the Tonto National Forest have a special pass available that can be used any time until 2010.

The pass replaced automatic machines, which dispensed tickets, as well as toll-stations manned with forest service employees.

"Paying at a station means someone always has to be there," Killebrew said. "It's a very expensive way to collect fees."

Killebrew said that the automated machines were used on a contract basis with another company, which had to collect money from the machines.

"The machines were not very reliable," he said. "They broke down, gave incorrect change, or didn't give out passes."

The Forest Service decided to reevaluate the system and looked at a program in national forest in Southern California, which had a pass similar to the Tonto Pass.

"We decided to look at other options," Killebrew said. "It's the most cost-effective way to collect fees."

The Tonto Pass has been successful, Killebrew said, but many people are still having trouble using the pass correctly.

"Once people learn how to do it and where to get passes, they'll be accepting of it," he said.

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The scenic Mogollon Rim in the Tonto National Forest has camping areas available through the year-old Tonto Pass program.

The pass includes a category for time of day, day, month and year, all which need to be scratched off at the time of use. A new pass is needed for each 24-hour period at a recreation site. Unlike previous systems, the pass is good for 24-hours, not just one calendar day.

Many passes can be purchased at one time and are good until 2010.

"They are good anytime until validated by the user," Killebrew said. "They're good until the day you go out to a site."

The pass includes a location for up to four stickers for watercraft vehicles.

Daily passes are $6 per vehicle and $4 per watercraft sticker.

The pass can be purchased at Circle K locations in Payson and Star Valley, the Express Stop in Payson and Jake's Corner Store. In all, there are more than 200 locations in the state where passes can be purchased.

A fine of up to $100 can be assessed for not using the pass correctly, Killebrew said.

Information about the pass is available on the TNF Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto or by calling the Tonto Basin Ranger District at (928) 467-3200.

The pass is not required at the Rim lakes, which are located in the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest.

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