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Tonto National Forest weighs higher fees due to revenue shortfall

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Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014

By Angelie Meehan


ANGELIE MEEHAN/CRONKITE NEWS: Wes Herrmann is one of many city dwellers who heads to the great outdoors to take a break from the hustle and bustle.

WES HERRMANN/FOREST PATRON: I like to come up here for the winter and spend several months. I’m planning on trying to spend longer up here this year.

ANGELIE MEEHAN/CRONKITE NEWS: But if the cost of going to the Tonto National Forest goes up, he may have to cut back on the time he spends in the wild.

The Forest Service identified a $2 million operating shortfall in 2012. In 2013, it released the information to the public in a series of open houses for input on what to do. One option: Reduce services and facilities to get expenses in line with the revenue. The other option…

GREG SCHUSTER/RECREATION PROGRAM MANAGER: Was to raise the fees, and what we heard overwhelmingly from the public was that they did not want us to close sites and facilities, they actually wanted us to find a way to manage them.

ANGELIE MEEHAN/CRONKITE NEWS: The proposed modifications to existing fees would continue to maintain campgrounds, picnic sites and boat launches here in recreation areas in Tonto National Forest.

The proposed changes include raising the daily Tonto pass fee from $6 a day to $8 a day, installing fee machines for onsite Tonto pass purchases for $12 a day, and decreasing the cost of the Tonto annual pass from $95 to $80. Wes and other campers are concerned about the proposed increase.

WES HERRMANN/FOREST PATRON: I’m a little surprised they’re raising it as high as they are. It’s going to make it more difficult for some of us on fixed incomes to come up and spend as much time as we’d like.

ANGELIE MEEHAN/CRONKITE NEWS: Tonto National Forest officials say they will continue to take feedback on the changes until Oct. 24. Then they plan to make their final decision on whether to increase the fees.