AMERICAN FORK CANYON In 1997, many families in Utah County didn't want to venture too far into American Fork Canyon because of the excessive amount of crime.
That year the Forest Service implemented a recreational fee, part of which went to supplement Utah County sheriff's deputies' salaries in order for them to patrol more in the canyon.
The result: Crime was drastically reduced.
After nearly 11 years of the same rate, the fee is about to increase.
Forest Service officials will raise the recreational fees for American Fork Canyon and the Alpine Loop area beginning Monday. The fees will rise from $3 for a three-day pass to $6, from $10 for a 14-day pass to $12 for a seven-day pass, and from $25 for an annual pass to $45. People driving through the canyon who don't stop for recreation in the canyon won't be charged the fee.
The fees help maintain and construct recreational facilities in the canyon, including campgrounds, parking lots and snowmobile trails among other projects. While the Forest Service receives federal money from taxes, it's minimal about one-tenth of a penny and can't maintain everything the canyon needs, said Loyal Clark, spokeswoman for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Service.
However, the money collected with the current and increased fees won't be dispersed nationally.
"This money is staying here," she said. "That's what's unique about this program. The money we generate stays in the area it's collected, and we're able to do so much with it."
Clark said they want to be able to maintain the projects they've completed in the canyon, and the extra money will allow them to go that.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument will also benefit from the increase in fees. The extra money helps the National Parks Service, which takes care of Timpanogos Cave, pay for seasonal employees, improve bathrooms and install benches, said Rodney Larsen, an administrative officer with the Timpanogos Cave National Monument.
With the economy unsteady and cost of living on the rise, Clark said they expect a group of people to resist the increase, but the Forest Service couldn't "wait for the economy to settle down" before an increase was implemented. Last year, about $500,000 was collected from the fees, Clark said they expect to collect about $750,000 this year.
Some of the funds also go to the Utah Department of Transportation to subsidize the care of the roads through the canyon, Clark said.
Although the price is rising, most people will appreciate the improvement of facilities in the canyon, said Joel Racker, president and chief executive officer of the Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.
He said that five years ago the UVCVB did a study that showed that Timpanogos Cave was the most recognizable location in Utah Valley. About 115,000 people visited the cave last year, and that number is consistently growing, he said. He said he's hopeful that raising fees in the canyon won't have too big of an impact on visitors.
"I'm optimistic that people will be less annoyed by that increase than ... trying to drive elsewhere," he said.Fee increases will also begin Monday at Mirror Lake and Flaming Gorge.
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