My husband and I disagree on this issue:

I say it's obnoxious to charge a fee for using nearby American Fork Canyon, especially a fee that is being doubled.

He says if it helps cut down the number of visitors to the overworked area, it's a good thing. Never mind that fees cut out those who cannot or will not pay the money and leave the rich and unrepentant open to continue to use and abuse.

Now, granted, the canyon is way busy and the number of visitors through it is high — between 500,000 and a million visitors the year before Uinta National Forest officials decided (in 1997) to implement a demonstration fee of $1 a day per car.

And, again granted, the money is badly needed. The $2 million raised in the past several years has been spent on improvements that make it easier and nicer to camp, picnic and visit the canyon.

There are better, expanded parking areas, improvements to trailheads and trails. The money pays for more law enforcement so there's less vandalism and improved safety.

I don't disagree that the flow of money has been welcome. Who doubted it would be?

But initially, we were promised the fees would be nominal. It was also promised that the money raised would stay in the area to be used in the area and only in the area.

Now, we're talking paying $6 for a 3-day pass.

Officials say it's a 2 dollar-a-day fee but just try and buy one for $2.

They also say you don't have to pay the fee if you're just driving through and not planning on stopping, but again, try telling that to the ranger at the gate house, especially after you've waited in a long, hot line for your turn.

I wonder, too, if the money will stay local with the Uinta folks combined with the Wasatch/LaSalle folks.

But all that aside, I think it's patently wrong to base access to forest lands on the ability to pay.

If the problem is too much traffic, then limit the traffic. Shut down access after so many tires have passed the gate.

Give a break to locals who've grown up loving living minutes from the cool, canyon streams and shady trees.

Send permits to the families who live in the valley and when the ration is gone, they can't come again without paying.

Make a way for people to access the canyon by volunteering.

Maybe so much time spent in service, i.e. picking up litter, cleaning a campground, could earn a person a free pass.

Whatever it takes to keep canyons and forests free for those who love them, not favors to be bought with the almighty dollar.


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