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Special K
10-24-2005, 10:54 AM
This article was printed in the October 24, 2005 East Valley Tribune. For those of you that live in northeast Mesa, Councilman Rex Griswald is the District 5 Councilman for that area. He can be reached at: coucilmember.griswald@cityofmesa.org. We need to provide our input to prevent these areas from being closed to all recreation. For those of us that live in the east valley, these areas provide an excellent area for recreation of all kinds that is close to home and doesn't require hours of driving. I will admit that I am new to these land use issues, but I am willing to get involved if I am pointed in the right direction.



Tonto Forest rules flouted
By Joe Kullman, Tribune
October 24, 2005
Public land managers and other officials are considering more restrictions of recreation activities to curb abuse of the vast Tonto National Forest just north of the East Valley.

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The 2.9 million acres of Sonoran Desert beyond Mesa and Scottsdale are activity hot spots where thousands flock each week to hike, bike, sightsee, camp, drive off-road vehicles, shoot firearms and party day and night.

Each year, though, the East Valleys population growth puts more environmental strain on the land.

And more conflicts are occurring among the various types of recreational uses, said Mesa City Councilman Rex Griswold.

Griswold is the citys representative with Friends of the Tonto, a group working with the U.S. Forest Service to deal with user impact issues.

"Places (in the East Valley) that used to be hunting grounds are now housing developments. The Tonto Forest is the last big open space we have," Griswold said. "We have to be protective of it."

The challenge is finding a balance between protecting the land and giving the public adequate use, said Art Wirtz, chief ranger for the Tontos 440,000-acre Mesa District.

Thornier issues involve what Forest Service officials call "extreme" forms of recreation mainly involving offroad vehicles and firearms.

Shooting has been banned across 80,000 acres of forest closest to growing residential developments in east Mesa, Apache Junction and north Scottsdale areas.

Still, stray bullets whiz near neighborhoods and other forest users, and theres also a trash problem when abandoned household appliances and computers are used as targets and then left in the forest, Wirtz said.

Tens of thousands of additional acres are closed to offroad vehicles. Much of that land was burned a few months ago by the Cave Creek Complex wildfire, which spread to half of the Tontos 600,000-acre Cave Creek District north of Scottsdale.

The Rolls and Sycamore Creek areas about 10 miles north of Mesa have not been hit by wildfires. But environmental damage from years of heavy use by off-road vehicles has Tonto officials considering tough restrictions, Wirtz said.

The Sycamore Creek area also is popular for other troublesome uses that restrictions could reduce: Rave parties and drag racing.

"Its not always a familyfriendly area because of those activities," said Tammy Pike, the Tontos trails and off-road motor vehicle use coordinator. Alcohol and drug use are often involved, officials said.

Some off-road enthusiasts who dont want to see the problems lead to a ban on their sport have formed Friends of the Sycamore. The group is meeting with the Forest Service to explore alternatives.

Some off-roaders have earned their notorious reputation for flouting the rules and displaying a disregard for nature, said Mesa resident Sandee McCullen, a leader of the Arizona OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) Coalition.

But more of them understand theyll lose popular riding areas unless they act responsibly, she said.

"Education is the solution," she said. "Some people still dont want to get educated. They just want to play. But that attitude of catch me if you can is changing."

Tempe resident Rich Smith, a Friends of the Sycamore leader, said offroaders would be willing to accept restrictions and fees if it means adding facilities such as parking lots, staging areas and signs at Sycamore Creek.

"A lot of people dont know (the area) is part of a national forest. They think its just some place out in the desert nobody really cares about," Smith said.

If they see user-friendly amenities added, "theyll get the message that its not a place to misbehave," he said.

The proposal is similar to what all types of Tonto users are asking for: "They all want their own trails," Pike said.

Off-roaders want exclusive areas. Mountain bikers want trails set aside only for bikers. Equestrians want trails where they and their horses wont have to contend with mountain bikers and motorized vehicles.

The tight budgets Forest Service officials expect for the foreseeable future are going to make it difficult to satisfy such requests, Pike said.

Protecting the Tontos terrain in times of limited funding may demand more user fees and gating of some areas to control use, Wirtz said.

Tonto officials dont want to rule by decree theyll bring the public into the
decisionmaking process, he said.

"We want people to understand that forest management isnt just about limiting access," Wirtz said. "It doesnt eliminate valid recreational uses. Its about stopping inappropriate and illegal uses. That benefits everyone."
Contact Joe Kullman by email, or phone (480) 970-2342

k7mto
10-24-2005, 12:01 PM
It's the same article/reporter.

jeepsonly
10-24-2005, 12:58 PM
Hey at least they got input from someone on "our side" this time. Nice to see AZOHVC get some mention. I expect that will increase over time.

Sedona Jeep School
10-24-2005, 03:32 PM
Bill--No where does this article address what you said, and what I have adopted as a mantra: "It is already illegal to dump and/or drive off trail. How will make it more illegal stop the damage?"

Although we may need more rules, more education, and more "management", what we desperately need, first and foremost is ENFORCEMENT. Enforce the rules we already have, before we talk about making new ones.

Question for the group: Did anyone see a single BLM person pick up a single piece of trash on Saturday?

Special K
10-24-2005, 04:06 PM
Bill--No where does this article address what you said, and what I have adopted as a mantra: "It is already illegal to dump and/or drive off trail. How will make it more illegal stop the damage?"

Although we may need more rules, more education, and more "management", what we desperately need, first and foremost is ENFORCEMENT. Enforce the rules we already have, before we talk about making new ones.

Question for the group: Did anyone see a single BLM person pick up a single piece of trash on Saturday?


I agree, if you close the area to legitimate users than all you are left with is the illegal users. You end up with same amount of abuse, but then you don't have the legitimate clubs and groups that help keep the areas clean. I think BLM realizes this, the question is how do you balance the many different groups that use the national forest. I think that requiring FREE permits, such as Bulldog Canyon, is a good way to manage some highly populated trails.

Hackle
10-24-2005, 04:22 PM
As a member of the Freinds of Sycamore for over a year the free permit is what we are looking at as one of the solutions. I also agree with the education and enforcement being required in all these areas. You can pass all the rules you want if nobody is available to enforce it the only people you damage is the ones that were following the laws and rules already.
Jim F.
It is nice to see the AZHOVC in the article.