east verde

The Forest Service has proposed requiring a Tonto Pass for day-use along the East Verde.

Tonto National Forest officials invite the public to comment on new day-use fees proposed for two developed recreation sites on the Payson Ranger District.

Currently, the two proposed day-use sites, Flowing Springs and East Verde, are free to visitors. The district is proposing these new recreation fees to cover the increasing costs of operations and maintenance for services such as trash removal, toilet pumping and cleaning, parking lot maintenance, and patrols and future upgrades.

If approved, these sites will be included in the Tonto Pass Program and will require the purchase of a Tonto Pass, either onsite through an automated fee machine, or offsite through a retail vendor or from the ranger station. The proposed fee to purchase an onsite Tonto Pass is $12, or $8 if purchased offsite. Additionally, the Tonto’s annual Discovery Pass and Senior Discovery Pass, as well as the Interagency America the Beautiful suite of passes, would cover user fees at these sites.

“Ninety-five percent of user-paid recreation fees collected on the Tonto, stay on the Tonto,” said Payson District Ranger Matt Paciorek. “That’s the direct benefit of user fees at these two sites. Fees help fund the amenities and services desired by our visitors and provide management flexibility, for protecting natural and cultural resources, and investing in volunteers, youth programs and partnerships to get work done.”

The public can submit comments on these proposed new fees in writing, through email, over the phone or in person. Comments must be received by Oct. 31. Send written comments to U.S. Forest Service Payson Ranger Station, 1009 E. Highway 260, Payson, AZ 85541. Oral comments can be provided over the telephone between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, by calling 928-474-7900. When calling, please indicate you would like to provide comments on the proposed district’s recreation fee changes.

Comments can also be submitted by email to TontoRecreationComments@usda.gov or online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/r3/SusRec by utilizing a public mapping tool to comment on a specific site or to make a general comment about the Payson Ranger District fee proposal.

The Tonto National Forest operates and maintains 215 developed recreation sites that offer a variety of visitor amenities, such as restroom facilities, trash collection, potable water and showers, designated parking, boat launching, developed camping, visitor security and interpretive opportunities. The majority of these developed recreation sites are free.

In winter 2021, the RAC will consider this proposal and associated public comments prior to making a recommendation to the Southwestern Region Regional Forester, who will make the final decision to implement any proposed fees.

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