View Full Version : Tonto NF Want to Add Restrictions to Curb Abuse...

10-25-2005, 07:22 PM
And now for something a little closer to home. This kind of story appears every year when the weather starts getting nice.

Tonto Forest Rules Flouted

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. 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 Valley's 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 city's 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 Tonto's 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 there's 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 Tonto's 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.

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

Some off-road enthusiasts who don't 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 they'll lose popular riding areas unless they act responsibly, she said.

"Education is the solution," she said. "Some people still don't 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 don't know (the area) is part of a national forest. They think it's just some place out in the desert nobody really cares about," Smith said.

If they see user-friendly amenities added, "they'll get the message that it's 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 won't 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 Tonto's terrain in times of limited funding may demand more user fees and gating of some areas to control use, Wirtz said.

Tonto officials don't want to rule by decree - they'll bring the public into the
decisionmaking process, he said.

"We want people to understand that forest management isn't just about limiting access," Wirtz said. "It doesn't eliminate valid recreational uses. It's about stopping inappropriate and illegal uses. That benefits everyone."


10-25-2005, 09:34 PM
Cogratulations, your the third person to post this article in two days!:D The first one I posted must have gotten everybody's attention.:rolleyes:

10-26-2005, 08:16 AM
More and more users in a smaller and smaller area only lead to one outcome....closer.

Solutions...a) We need more trails to spread the wear and tear. b) Restrict the number of users by charging a fee. or c) Keep our favourite trails secret :D .


10-26-2005, 08:30 AM
"curb abuse" :confused:

When did they start putting curbs on the trails :D ;) :p

10-26-2005, 08:31 AM
Geez, if nothing else they should just put a gate on the other entrances. I've been in Bulldog Canyon a few times and didn't see the trash you see in open areas. A gate with a combination lock and maybe require people to get a free permit.

The coves area trash seems to mostly come from boaters, btw.

Sedona Jeep School
10-27-2005, 06:53 AM
I don't understand why we cannot have someone patrol these areas?
$. Funding for more staffing and/or a volunteer force is required to make enforcement happen. With all of the lawsuits and bureaucracy affecting the day-to-day job duties of our current "rangers", they spend less and less time actually ranging, and much more time behind a desk.

Another good point made in that article is the LACK of education. By far I find this the most apalling. The last thing we need are idiots.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Naturally, I am all for education, but, on this issue of education you can divide people into three categories:
1) those who actively seek it,
2) those who will follow it if it is put in front of their faces without much effort on their part,
3) those who will attend to it only to avoid punishment.

Typically, the idiots fall into category 3. So how do we get the message to them? Enforcement. Now, how to generate the $ to do so...

Finally, opening up MORE area IS NOT THE ANSWER. That simply means trash spread out over a larger area, makign it much more difficult to clean up. The issue is not space...its RESPECT. This is a people problem not a land problem.
Whether you believe that there should be more space, less space, or just maintain what we have, I am in agreement with you that we must deal with our people-issues first and foremost.

I believe that, as a group, OHV "categories 1 and 2" people have acquired sufficient knowledge at this point. Now, what we face is how to deal with the category 3's.

10-27-2005, 09:09 AM
On people: 10% of the people cause 90% of the problems 100% of the time.

Sedona Jeep School
10-28-2005, 08:27 AM
Don, Is it time for arm wrestling, yet? ;) :D

10-28-2005, 08:32 AM
Volunteering is great but people have guns and you're in the middle of the desert. In my opinion, you'd need to volunteer for an enforcement detail like this armed and with the authority of the law on your side. There is an MCSO Jeep Posse and all of them are armed and dressed exactly as a deputy. Now all you need to do is convince MCSO (if it's in-county) they should be doing it or raise money to pay for a deputy to supervise/give authority to/backup the posse.

Either that or go in stealth mode with good cameras. There is still some danger involved though.

10-28-2005, 09:25 AM
Don, Is it time for arm wrestling, yet? ;) :D
Nena, your too funny...

That run up there you are leading[?] sounds like fun, gonna have to make one you way some day.

Right now got the Jeep sitting on jack stands in the driveway [this ought to make the HOA real happy']. Got to get it clean and painted underneath, get my wheels cleaned and polished and new shoes put on so I can get back on the trails.

10-28-2005, 10:49 PM
The idea of volunteers is great, but on a recent trip I was reminded how bad it can get..... with the family (wife and 3 girls) and another family we went to saguaro lake cove 1. We drove to the top of "rollover hill" (locked and aired down I idled up it like it was paved and flat). Ate the top we encountered a group on atc's grinding up the hill (ONE drunk idiot in a highly modified Jeep "cut" the trail September or so of last year). When I calmly and very nicely asked them not to tear up the hill side, they became very beligerant, asking "what's the difference?". Not wanting to even try to reason with an obviously drunk idiot, we proceeded to the end of the point. After swimming an diving a while, we returned to our "camp" (wives and smaller kids had stayed behind). About 18-20minutes later the group 5-7 ATC's returned with the "leader" parked prominantly displaying his 9mm while the others did doughnuts throwing rocks and kicking up a lot of dust.

At the time I wish I had a Mac10 (target shooting of course), but in retrospect I wish I puled out my 35mm (lot of good that would have done).

Need to find some way to control the *******s (PERIOD).

10-28-2005, 10:56 PM
Good luck. In most of these cases there is little anyone could do. Heck during a cleanup at the Coves one year someone on an ATV rode through our AZVJC camp and then did doughnuts, spraying dirt and rocks all over Jeeps but more importantly all over my family and I. I was livid and wanted to chase the bastard down but he tore off 90 mpg down the wash.

I know not all ATV people are like that (just like not all Jeep people do bad things) but it sure turned me against them for a while. How easily someone's perception of a sport/hobby can be influenced, huh?