Managing the popular Tonto National Forest campgrounds will be discussed in a series of public meetings that begin this month in Payson and Tonto Basin and continue in the Valley.
Tonto National Forest officials will soon host a series of eight public meetings that will focus on recreational sustainability and planning, but none are expected to consider the possible reopening of Fossil Creek and the road (FR 708) that leads into the pristine, spring-fed paradise that last summer attracted about 90,000 visitors.
It is being left out of discussions because talks are limited to developed recreation sights and Tonto National Forest officials consider Fossil Springs a dispersed camping area, said Payson Ranger District Recreation Officer Chelsie Muise.
The meetings will mostly likely center on the ranger district’s most popular developed sites including ones at Houston Mesa, Ponderosa and Christopher Creek.
Muise says at the upcoming meetings, forest officials “Hope to get people’s opinions to determine the future of developed recreational sites and in the years to come, implement those (ideas).”
Tonto National Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth concurs, “We look forward to partnering with our recreation visitors in developing a sustainable recreation program for the future.”
Bosworth says TNF officials are determined to ensure recreational activities are provided in the correct places and are accessible to the public.
During the meetings, officials will address long-range management programs in terms of economic, social and ecological sustainability.
The meetings will be a conducted in a town hall-like forum in which the public can discuss concerns face-to-face with representatives of the Tonto National Forest’s six ranger districts.
“The public will also be asked to submit written comments,” Muise said.
Although the highly controversial topic of increasing recreation fees at the developed sites is not a specific item on the upcoming agendas, Muise anticipates the issue could arise.
“It’s possible,” she said.
In the series of public meetings, one will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24 in Room 301 at Gila Community College in Payson. Another will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Tonto Basin Elementary School.
Others will be held at the Phoenix Interagency Fire Training Center in Mesa, the ASU Prep Academy in Phoenix, Black Mountain Elementary School in Scottsdale, the Besh-Ba-Gowah Park in Globe, the Pleasant Valley Community Center and Roosevelt Lake Resort.
At all the meetings, each of the ranger districts will have at least one representative present.
For the meeting in Payson, however, Muise expects to have several representatives to better handle a larger number of visitors.