Eleven Nephi residents requested that the Juab County Commission call a public meeting to protest what they refered to as "the locking up of our canyon by the Forest Service."
Because the three commissioners are also upset by recent decisions limiting access to Salt Creek canyon, they have scheduled a hearing for 7:30 p.m. July 18. Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and Utah's congressional delegation will be invited. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, member of the Interior committee, should be on hand.Residents objected to a recent closure of part of the canyon to camping. Unimproved camping spots between Ponderosa and Bear Canyon were closed this season. In addition, Cottonwood, a camping picnic area on the east side of Salt Creek, was made inaccessible when a culvert was removed and not replaced a few weeks ago.
Dale Worwood, owner of Four Ds in Nephi, said he objected to the way the Forest Service was gradually closing the canyon to all but fee areas. "Our fathers built the road into Salt Creek," said Worwood. He said the grandfathers and fathers of Nephi residents built the canyon area, planted trees and developed Dad and Sons (now Bear Canyon) for use by fathers and sons for recreation.
"The 4-H used the area for years," said Worwood. "Now we are being locked out." More than 100 camping spots are no longer available, he said.
Thomas Tidwell, district Forest Service ranger for the Spanish Fork Ranger District, said the district has often used the canyon as an example of a well-maintained multi-use area.
He said the department doesn't want Salt Creek to have a "trailer park" appearance because there are other forest areas where such camping is allowed.
Tidwell said the Salt Creek area is limited. Tourists and picnickers were unable to enjoy the canyon if all the sites were taken by campers. In addition, he said, tourists appreciated the buffer zone of one-half to one mile around fee camping areas. The density along the road was above the accepted level with 50-60 trailers parked at roadside.
Tourists did not like such heavy concentrations. "In other forest areas we allow heavy concentration, but we do not want that in Salt Creek," said Tidwell. Campers in lush meadow areas could cause stream bank damage and perhaps harm the fish population. In such areas, camping within 150 feet of the stream was not desirable. In lower Salt Creek, where the floods of the early 1980s deposited gravel, stream-side camping was not a problem.
"We know we are displacing some of the local campers," said Tidwell. "But we are proud of our management. We do not want to turn the canyon into a parking lot." Out-of-state tourists do not appreciate wall-to-wall campers, he said.
The cottonwood tree overstory at the old Cottonwood Campground was not the best place for a campground, said Tidwell. When money becomes available, the Andrews Canyon area will be developed.
Tidwell said he decided to close the areas as recommended by a 1983 forest management team.
The Boy Scouts recently helped plant 200 ponderosas and had painted tables, said Worwood. "The people of Nephi have always been willing to help. They had come in after the floods and helped make the canyon usable again. If more areas need to be developed we will donate the labor and time to do it. We are willing to help develop another campground," said Worwood.
"Gradually, over the years, we (Nephi residents) have had our canyon privileges removed," said Kayle Peterson, who works at Job Service in Nephi. She said her family moved to the area 20 years ago. "The canyon looks as good now as it did then. Every year we lose one more privilege."
"At the same time we are not just managing the forest for Nephi but for the rest of the people in the United States," said Tidwell.
Tourists want to stay in the developed areas, said Commissioner Jim Garrett. The people of Nephi can't afford the $7 per night fee, but there should be plenty of room for both.
Eddes Johnson, custodian at Juab High School, said the area was a distressed area financially. "The Forest Service is trying to crowd Nephi people out."
"If you had a big family and wanted to camp for one week it would cost $50 (to stay in the developed areas). Many families couldn't afford $50," said Dixie Sperry.
"It is a really disgraceful thing the Forest Service is allowing to take place in our canyon," said Commissioner Richard Brough. "The county has always cooperated with the Forest Service, but cooperation is a two-way street. I have received a lot of phone calls from people objecting to the closure. The road into the canyon was built and is maintained by the county. The county could close the road if the Forest Service does not cooperate."
Tidwell said in the spirit of cooperation, camping spots along the canyon road that were recently closed were allowed to remain open for the Ute Stampede.
"Maybe for special weekends, when the usage is high, some consideration could be allowed," he said. Such weekends might be the Fourth of July, the Ute Stampede and the opening of deer season.