The U.S. Forest Service will gather public reaction to a plan to ban cars from Fossil Creek on busy summer weekends at a workshop Monday, April 25 at the Payson Public Library, located in Rumsey Park.
The session next Monday was originally scheduled for April 11, but was canceled due to concerns a budget stalemate would shut down the federal government.
Forest Service rangers and consultants will present the leading proposal for coping with the thousands of visitors who crowd the scenic canyon every weekend during the summer, lured by the clear, deep, pools of blue-green, travertine tinted water.
The spring-fed creek has won designation as one of two stretches of “wild and scenic river” in Arizona and has become one of the leading refuges for native fish and other riparian species.
Last summer, the Forest Service banned campfires and camping in the canyon, citing the inrush of visitors and the rising number of untended campfires left behind.
The Forest Service has launched a comprehensive study on how to manage the creek in the years to come.
Consultants held public hearings throughout the region before coming up with the current proposal, which seeks to control use in the busy central section of the creek by banning vehicles during holidays and summer weekends. Instead, people could park at the edge of the canyon and take a shuttle bus, for a not-yet-determined cost.
Some advocates have proposed an alternative plan that would impose a fee to finance the creation of 150 to 200 parking spaces in the canyon. A permit system would then limit the number of cars allowed into the canyon at any one time.
Both plans would impose fees to help pay the cost of protecting the thriving riparian area, with deep pools and waterfalls popular with swimmers and a rare, catch-and-release fishery where people can catch several kinds of native fish endangered elsewhere.
The Forest Service will gather public suggestions at a series of workshops, including the one on April 25. Consultants will then incorporate those comments into a final recommendation in the next 12 to 18 months.