After putting out more than 200 abandoned campfires and picking up trash and human waste from visitors last summer, the U.S. Forest Service is implementing stronger regulations at Fossil Creek just in time for spring break.
Noted as one of Northern Arizona’s most popular swimming and camping sites, beginning March 8, campfires will be banned throughout Fossil Creek and camping will be limited to specific areas away from the creek.
Officials with the Coconino and Tonto National Forests hope these changes will protect the area’s resources.
“Fossil Creek is incredibly beautiful and became popular really fast, so it’s no wonder that it’s being loved to death,” said Red Rock Ranger District Recreation Staff Officer Jennifer Burns. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing its beauty eroded from impacts of tens of thousands of visitors wanting to get close to the clear pools and lush vegetation.”
Officials say trees are being chopped down for firewood, human and pet waste is threatening water quality, streamside vegetation is being trampled as new trails are created and the ground is littered with waste, glass, trash and ash.
“We are very concerned about the threat of wildfire to the creek and nearby communities,” said Burns. “Last summer we put out over 200 abandoned campfires.”
As the Forest Service works with the public to create and implement a long-term Comprehensive River Management Plan, officials and volunteers will be on site informing visitors of current and anticipated changes in how the area is managed for recreation.
“Until we get a long term plan worked out, we have to stop the trashing of this treasure,” Burns said. “We hope visitors understand these interim management changes are meant to buy us time.”
Big changes for Fossil Creek began in 2005 with the decommissioning of the Arizona Public Service Hydro-electric dam and the return of full flows to the creek. In 2009, Congress designated Fossil Creek as a National Wild and Scenic River.
Because Fossil Creek is one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in the state, the Forest Service will be including Fossil Creek in a national Respect the Rivers campaign to connect people to their riparian environments, return watersheds and rivers to a healthy state and call on the public to become stewards of such national treasures.
For more information about Fossil Creek or how to help protect the area, visit www .coconinoforests.us, www.redrockcountry.org, www.tonto www.fs. fed.us/r3/tonto/home.shtml or call the Red Rock Ranger District at (928) 282-4119 or the Payson Ranger District at (928) 474-7900.