- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service is asking for the public’s feedback on a proposal to limit visitors to the popular Fossil Creek outdoor area to those who have made online reservations.

If the Forest Service’s plan were to take effect, visitors would have to apply online for a reservation to park their vehicles. Reservations would cost $10 or more and camping would also be limited to designated areas, The Arizona Daily Sun reports (https://bit.ly/1QKhWae).

Officials say visitors to Fossil Creek have increased during the summer season from about 20,000 in 2006 to 80,000 in 2013. As a result, bushes and grasses have been crushed by people parking on the side of the road and search and rescue vehicles have struggled to get to the site.

Currently, rangers manage parking in the Fossil Creek area about four days a week. Once the number of cars reaches a capacity determined by a ranger, visitors go to a one-out-one-in system. This leaves would-be hikers waiting for hours, with some never making it in. During the three-day July Fourth weekend this summer, the Forest Service estimated that 2,600 people were turned away at the entrance barricade.

When rangers aren’t on duty, visitors park at will, which can lead to problems, said Nicole Branton, Red Rock district ranger on the Coconino National Forest, which manages the Fossil Creek area.

“We have seen it where people park on both sides of the road and there’s no way you could get an ambulance or fire truck through,” Branton said.

The new system is still in the analysis phase, but would likely allow between 100 and 150 reservations a day, which includes both camping and day use.

If approved, the new procedures wouldn’t take effect until the summer of 2016.


Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, https://www.azdailysun.com/

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