Coronado National Forest seeks comments on Developed Recreation - Tucson News Now

Coronado National Forest seeks comments on Developed Recreation Program

(Source: Coronado National Forest) (Source: Coronado National Forest)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The Coronado National Forest is seeking the public's input on restructuring the Developed Recreation Program to become financially self-sufficient and sustainable.  

Each of the five ranger districts (Douglas, Nogales, Safford, Santa Catalina, Sierra Vista) will host open house meetings during which those interested in commenting on the Developed Recreation Program, can discuss ideas with U.S. Forest Service personnel and fill out comment cards. Meeting dates will be announced through future news releases and posted on the CNF Restructuring Developed Recreation website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/coronado/feereview.

The CNF operates and maintains 204 developed recreation sites. Developed sites provide things like picnic tables, restroom facilities, trash receptacles, designated parking, visitor security and interpretive signs, exhibits or kiosks. 

While most lands in the forest are not considered developed areas and are available for use free-of-charge, fees are charged at some developed recreation sites to be used for operations and maintenance costs. 

According to the USFS, 95 percent of fees charged remain where they are collected, to be used to maintain that area, while the remaining five percent of fees are available as grant funding. Officials say maintaining the developed sites costs per year, an estimated $3.8 million, but this cost does not include additional services provided for visitors such as maintaining trails, managing remote camping areas, and firefighting operations.  

The fee money collected is only $1.3 million annually, with 50 percent of funding coming from tax dollars allocated by Congress, the remaining 50 percent comes from the fees collected. The gap between cost and revenue is $2.5 million each year, meaning the Developed Recreation Program operates at a financial loss.  

According to CNF streamlining the workforce, closing sites, removing facilities, and installing lower-maintenance facilities, has not reduced the costs enough to close the gap and despite the efforts to become more efficient, the CNF Developed Recreation Program remains financially unsustainable. 

The public is invited to comment on how CNF could close the financial gap. Potential strategies to do just that are: eliminating some developed recreation sites, transferring management of some developed recreation sites to partners or concessionaires, increasing fees, increasing the number of fee sites, or a combination of components.

Comments will be accepted until Sept. 30, 2017. Field personnel will be available to speak with CNF visitors about potential solutions. 

Information on the Developed Recreation Program will be posted at developed recreation sites, and can be found on the Restructuring Developed Recreation website. 

Comments can also be made on comment cards at open houses, and by emailing CoronadoRecreation@fs.fed.us.  

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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