Rumors have been spreading that there will be a toll imposed for visitors of Payson Canyon, causing many drivers to worry about the cost of driving the Nebo Loop.
Serve Daily recently spoke to Juab County Tourism Director Shana Memmott, who confirmed that no toll will be imposed to drive the canyon. With any rumor, however, there is a trickle of truth. While drivers will still be able to drive the 31-mile scenic road without paying much more than gas money, (which these days, isn’t much of a consolation) there are some areas that may require a fee to enter.
According to information found on the Forest Service website, the Spanish Fork Ranger District has 14 areas that are being considered as fee areas as part of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.The areas include, Cottonwood Campground, Devil’s Kitchen; Dry Canyon Campground; Fifth Water Trailhead; Jenkins Flat Picnic Site; Lower Grotto Trailhead; Monks Hollow Trailhead; Monument Trailhead; Red Ledges; Sawmill Hollow Campground; Three Forks Trailhead; Unicorn Ridge Campground; Upper Grotto Trailhead; and Vernon Reservoir Campground.
Each of these areas have a proposed fee of $10 Per day, $20 Per week, and $60 Per Season/Year.
Memmott said that every few years, the National Forest Service proposes fees in different areas, and that it just so happens to be the Spanish Fork District’s turn. She said that these are just proposed areas/fees, and it will all have to go through another board/meeting before the fees are official. She noted that there have been several public hearings, and many residents, particularly on the Juab County side, have opposed the fees.
“I think what’s upsetting the locals on the Juab County side is that a lot of volunteers and members of fish and wildlife groups made a big donation to get Jenkin’s Flat all cleaned up,” Memmott said. “Our county put in money to be used for fishing, and now you may have to pay just to pull into the parking lot to fish there, in addition to paying your fishing license.”
“There was also an agreement made with locals years ago that the Forest Service wouldn’t charge for Cottonwood Campground because it took over another campground, and the county fixed up Cottonwood on its own.”
Memmot explained that locals on the Juab side, particularly, pay the bulk of the taxes to keep the areas like Cottonwood Campground and Jensen’s Flat running, and they are also the main people who are using these areas. She said that it is upsetting for locals to have to pay so much for areas that they already pay so much for. Additionally, she expressed concern for the future of these areas that have been maintained at a local level by residents.
“The hard thing is, the locals are going to be paying the brunt of the taxes,” Memmott said. “About 82% of the county is owned by the federal government. A lot of people are upset because we’re already paying for it, and it’s going to be us who are punished for using it. It’s our tax dollars that are paying to fund all of this, and we have our volunteers who put in a lot of hours to maintain these areas as well. We’ve seen how many of the areas that we love have gone downhill after being taken over by the federal government.”
“I think we’d feel better if we knew why these certain areas were chosen because some of them don’t make any sense. Why would you pay $10 to hike Devil’s Kitchen? It’s like not even a block long. Why would you charge to park in that parking lot to be able to walk there? Over on the Grotto, there’s some overcrowding, so maybe there’s a need for a fee there. We don’t have overcrowding on our side.”
All public hearings and comments have been closed, and are being considered prior to the next board meeting that Memmot said may be as soon as this coming January.
For more information on these proposed fees, go to links.servedaily.com/forest-service