For the past few weeks I have been checking and cleaning up about six different dispersed campsites along Tonto National Forest Road 29, from TNFR 289 to the Mead Ranch and Collins Ranch community, which is a couple of miles in from the TNFR 289 hatchery road.

When I visit the sites after a typical weekend (before Highway 87 was closed for the Bush Fire), I’m finding lots of trash, used toilet paper and human waste scattered everywhere, and — most concerning by far — evidence that most of the campers are having wood campfires in total defiance of the current Stage 2 restrictions. That is a big reason why Tonto National Forest needs to be closed now!

Many of this breed of dispersed campers seem to be generally irresponsible, and they seem to think they can get away with having fires because they’re off the beaten path. COVID-19 and high temps in the Valley have, in a way, created the perfect storm for another big fire on the Tonto ... we have unprecedented visitation by folks who have no feeling of stewardship, appreciation, or responsibility toward our beautiful Rim Country and local residents. Many are just here to get out of the heat, target shoot, tear around in their ATVs, and get drunk by a campfire. Shooting and having a few beers by a fire is all great fun, but not during fire season!

It’s just a different type of crowd here now, one like I’ve never seen before in these numbers since I came to the Payson area in 1983. They’re already trashing our forest, and now they’re going to burn it down, if we let them!

Please, everyone, urge the powers that be to close TNF until monsoon rains begin ... before it’s too late.

Brent Reed, Tonto Rim Ranch

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(1) comment

Norma Christenson

I agree with this editorial, especially in this severe dry weather. Don’t take a chance on another major fire. We wear masks, or some of us do, to protect other people from any germs that might infect them from this deadly virus. We also need to protect our beautiful forests and wildlife from those who have no consideration for anyone or anything but themselves. Let’s be smart and make the forest off limits until, hopefully, the rains come. Protecting the land and animals is just as important as protecting each other.

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