This is an open letter to the Forest Service — What should they do?
Solutions, thoughts, and suggestions:
Do nothing. Keep the forest open to OHV. Put the funds you would have spent on three staging areas around Payson into law enforcement monitoring behavior in the forest. The trend is less and less funds which translate into less and less staff. Why spread yourself out to the point of being less effective?
If the real problem is that you do not like the OHVers to have the freedom to roam where they will, gear the money and efforts into a similar trail system like they developed in Utah. It might help keep them on distinct trails.
To draw attention to Payson by giving the area a label will only bring additional headaches for you and your staff. Look what happened to our pristine area that we labeled and advertised as the perfect area to visit ... Fossil Creek. Now because of the pressure administered by radical environmentalists, we’ve closed the roads, drained Steer Lake (formerly a perfect habitat for the critters and fish), removed the flume, removed the historical monuments ... the very first hydroelectric power sources to the city of Phoenix and labeled this one of the most attractive pristine riparian areas of the Southwest. People, formerly unaware of the area, have traveled the world to reach this environmental mecca only to find their use severely restricted due to very predictable results. These include littering, damage to fragile habitat as well as human urine and excrement in and near creek. All of these headaches were directly transferred to the responsibility of the Forest Service. Before you recommend labeling Payson as an OHV capital for our state, step back and think of the possible results.
If the real reason is to protect the other 3 million acres of national forest from OHVers by concentrating them around Payson, don’t think for a moment that those with OHVs will stop going to their favorite quad areas in our forests. If the real reason to change the equestrian campground to an OHV headquarters is to bring money to the town of Payson, is it worth the problems that this proposal will create for the Tonto National Forest and the folks living in the Payson area?
We live in one of the most beautiful and diverse areas of the Southwest. This forest is effectively managed under a multi-use approach. Because the forest is such a fragile environment, another destination label may not be the most helpful approach to continued effective management.
Make the present equestrian and non-equestrian campground more accessible to campers by opening the gate, placing an honor system payment plan, and advertising this facility through the town of Payson.
Together, we can keep our forest healthy for multi-use.
Roger W. Rohrbach