This past Saturday morning I counted 77 vehicles parked in a one-mile area on Flowing Springs Road. Averaging three persons per car, that comes to a minimum of 231 campers in the space of one mile. While driving home from town Saturday morning, I stopped 200 feet from the entrance to Flowing Springs to put out an abandoned smoldering campfire with the assistance of a neighbor. I then passed a family camped within 10 feet of the entrance to the community of Flowing Springs, with their blazing campfire situated in the tall grass. These are the facts of life for the residents of Flowing Springs.
With so many more campers now using the campgrounds, the area has become extremely degraded. Fragile vegetation has been beaten to death by vehicles driving across grass and brush. Trash and debris is left behind for animals to eat and scatter around.
There is one outhouse for the entire Flowing Springs camping area and it is obvious that human waste is going directly into the river and is being deposited on the open ground by the “visitors.” Anyone fishing in the East Verde River should be especially concerned about what they might be eating for dinner.
The biggest concern is the danger of an abandoned or illegal campfire causing a wildfire in our area.
The Water Wheel Fire was less than two miles away from us; we know what can happen when fire threatens a community such as ours. A wildfire in the Flowing Springs area would destroy not only the forest around us, but also our homes, our livelihoods, and possibly our lives. Will it take another devastating fire, with loss of life and property, to make you realize the real and present danger of uncontrolled access to these popular camping areas?
We invite you to join us over Memorial Day weekend as we spend our time looking for campfires that are not put out, as we pick up truckloads of trash and debris left behind because the “visitors” were in such a hurry to leave this beautiful and pristine area, as we lie awake at night smelling smoke and wondering if we will be alive in the morning, as we pray that we don’t need an ambulance or a fire truck because the road will be clogged with vehicles.
Your editorial opposing the Forest Service’s efforts to establish day-use camping and to charge nominal fees for the privilege of using the forest in order to protect the environment from the abuse it suffers every year demonstrates not your love of the forest, but a willingness to let it be desecrated by too many people who care nothing for the fragile environment they are trampling to death.
Yes, we own the forest, and we also own the Grand Canyon, Kartchner Caverns and the Tonto Natural Bridge, yet fees must be paid and access must be controlled to these state and national treasures because of their extreme popularity.
Logic dictates that the same steps must be applied to a handful of locations in the local forest if we are to keep these areas safe and beautiful for the enjoyment of all.