Red Rock Pass Fee Program Proposal FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the Forest Service propose to add Dry Creek and Fay Canyon as fee sites?
These are popular developed recreation sites where many members of the public expect adequate public services including toilets, information signs, and trash containers. Adding these two sites into the fee program will allow a more effective level of on-site maintenance paid for by the revenue from the Fee Program.
The Dry Creek site was developed with all amenities in 2011 and has been extremely popular since it opened. Prior to development the site was an unmanaged parking area with severe soil erosion and compaction, no visitor services and growing sanitation and safety issues. Fay Canyon site was paved nearly a decade ago along with the Boynton Pass Road (FR152C) improvements. The site is set in a spectacular location and provides access to the enchanting Fay Canyon. Use has steadily grown and over 100 visitors/day now visit the site on weekends. During site reviews as long ago as 2011 human waste, toilet paper, trash and social trails were observed around the parking lot.
How much will the fees be?
There is no proposal to increase the fee. Fees remain as they have since the beginning of the Program in 2000: $5.00 for a daily pass, $15.00 for weekly, and $20.00 annual pass. Individuals who have the Federal Interagency, Access, Senior, or Military pass do not need to have the Red Rock Pass.
How much money will this proposal generate? What will you use the money for?
The addition of the two new fee sites is anticipated to generate $100,000 in revenue. The funds will be used for maintenance, interpretation, and patrols at fee sites. In particular the funds will pay for pumping the vault toilet biannually, daily or twice daily cleaning of the restroom (depending on the season), parking lot asphalt and striping maintenance, waste removal from the trash cans, vegetation and fencing maintenance around the developed site, cleaning of graffiti and sign and kiosk repair and updates. In addition funds pay for law enforcement and recreation technician patrols of the fee area to assist visitors, provide interpretation and provide resource protection.
Why are you changing from fee areas to fee sites?
Removing the “areas” and going to “stand alone” sites will make it easier for the public to know when and where they need to have a Red Rock Pass. The two small “areas” were approved for the program as a way to encourage visitors to NOT park along the highway(s) but to use the fee sites as a safer parking alternative. Over the past several years, we have observed that visitors generally choose to park within the fee sites, away from the unsafe roadside.
Why should we be paying at all? That’s what I pay taxes for.
The Forest Service relies, in some high use recreation areas, on revenue from site fees in addition to Congressional funding (taxes). The high level of visitor services and high amount of visitor use in these sites requires more attention to maintenance and repair, which the FS does not always have the funds to take care of. A law (the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act) allows for charging a fee if amenities such as toilets and interpretive signs are available for public use. The National Forest areas around Sedona receive over 1/3 of the visitor use of the entire Coconino National Forest, over 2 million visitors. The Red Rock District does not receive extra appropriated funding to respond to this visitation. Without Fee revenue, the District would be unable to provide proper sanitation, resource protection, visitor information and other services needed to provide visitor safety and to protect the fragile environment from the extraordinarily high level of visitation that the area receives.
How many free sites are there on the District? How many fee sites?
Under the proposal there will be 20 Red Rock Pass Program fee sites. There currently are and will continue to be numerous (over 30) free forest access sites.
How is it decided which sites get developed with amenities? Whether a site is developed or not depends on many factors: public feedback, amount and type of visitor use, resource protection and sanitation needs, and funding. Both Fay and Dry Creek are sites of high visitor use where human waste should be managed for visitor health and resource protection. Per Forest Service standards, any site with over 35 visitors per day should have a toilet. In addition, the developed parking lots and signs encourage visitors to park vehicles in designated spaces rather than impacting the roadside or other natural areas. Both fee and fee parking sites also allow trail users to access many of the high quality trails of the area, rather than haphazard parking and the creation of damaging “social routes” in the sensitive environment.
Forest Service determines where to add amenities based on where we see high use and observe trash, human waste, social trails, etc. that suggest more management is needed to protect resources and provided better visitor experiences. Some members of the public have asked why picnic tables are needed at sites that they believe are essentially “trailheads” that they suggest do not need tables.
Picnic tables serve both trail users and non-trail users. Tables support a variety of uses including picnics, photography, staging for trail use, yoga (on the table!) or sitting to view the scenery. The RRRD sees a large number of non-hiking visitors who come from around the country and the world to see the iconic red rocks. Many of them are doing driving or “short stop” visits where they only walk a short distance down the trail, take photos of the landscape (or of particular rocks), learn about the area from interpretive signs, use the bathrooms and trash facilities, and sit at the picnic tables and either eat lunch or just bask in the scenery. If picnic tables are becoming more common it’s because this kind of typically urban visitor who is more interested in “entry level” experiences on the forest is becoming much more common.
Picnic tables are an amenity that is used more by families with children, than individuals, and by person with disabilities. Picnic tables, and more developed amenities encouraged by FLREA, are about serving the diverse range of users typical of Red Rock country, an international tourist attraction. Providing a range of amenities at well located and developed recreation sites is a positive move away from focusing exclusively on highly skilled/able bodied traditional trail users.
Another positive use of picnic tables is their ability to focus public picnic/snack eating to developed locations so that people are not in traffic or impacting soil/vegetation by creating their own “pullouts” along the road to eat. On the Red Rock District with its high archaeological site density, picnic trash is actually a significant issue (scraps attract animals, who then burrow into/around arch sites). Animal waste is also a significant contributor to e.coli in the water. This is why the Forest Service has placed picnic tables at developed site alongside riparian areas such as Oak Creek.
What is the difference between concessionaire fee sites (West Fork, Grasshopper, and Crescent Moon) and the RRP fee program sites?
These day use sites are all located on National Forest land, and managed for the public’s benefit. Three of these fee sites are managed under a “lease” agreement with a private concessionaire. The three day use sites managed by the concessionaire (Recreation Resource Management) require daily on-site staffing due to their popular location, high visitation and intensive maintenance needs. The decision about where to allow concessionaire management is determined based on the need for more intensive on-site management that the Forest Service is generally not able to provide. The concessionaire managed sites are large high use campgrounds and intensively used water based day use sites.
What’s the timeline for all this?
The timing depends on the schedule of the BLM Recreation Resource Advisory Committees (RAC) meeting schedule. Generally it is expected that the Forest Service will provide a RAC presentation following the public comment period, and a decision will be rendered by the Regional Forester after that time. Proposed changes cannot be implemented until the Regional Forester decision is made.
When will we have to start paying at the two new sites?
Implementation of the changes would not occur until a decision by the Regional Forester. This would take place after public involvement and presentation to the RAC.
What’s the deadline for submitting comments?
Public comments should be as specific and as detailed as possible. Comments will be accepted through the August 1, 2016. Submit comments submit comments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by normal mail to Red Rock District, P.O. Box 20429, Sedona, AZ 86341.
How will you enforce the Pass Program? What is the level of compliance with the Pass Program?
Enforcement of the Red Rock Pass Fee Program is done through education at the Visitor contact locations and fee sites and by the issuance of citations for non-compliance issued by law enforcement officers. Over the past 4 years compliance with the RR Pass Program has exceeded 70%.
What are the six required amenities under FLREA?
Designated developed parking, permanent toilet facility, permanent trash receptacle, interpretive signs, exhibit, or kiosk, a picnic table, and security services.
Who is the deciding official for the proposal?
The Southwest Region Regional Forester Calvin Joyner.
Could the proposal be declined?
The proposal could change as the process moves ahead. Based on public and FS comment, the RAC could make suggestions that further improve the proposal, or modify it. However, the RRP Fee Program will remain in the same configuration that it is currently until the proposal process is complete.