They said that's a lot of questions; we'll have to get back to you.
To whom it may concern:
I do not like this proposal.
I'm also little confused about it. On your website it states that: the goal of the fee changes is to establish a more consistent fee schedule for all recreation areas in the National Forests.
But the sign at the Brock Creek campground says:
Fees help pay for operating and maintaining this recreation area. The proposed fee rate is based on the level of amenities and services provided, cost of operation and maintenance, and market value.
Nothing about establishing a consistent fee schedule.
So maybe it's about all of it (consistency, operation, maintenance) or maybe it just about more money. Is consistency more, less or equal in importance than revenue? By your figures, your recreation operations budget has gone down by 12 percent and the deferred maintenance for developed recreation sites and trails now stands at $3 to $4 million locally. The USFS budget has been reduced yet your answer here is to implement a plan that to my knowledge has not been thought out to the end game. I suspect this is more about people adding another bullet point and checking a box on thier evaluation report ( What is your plan to mitigate budget cuts?) to try to satisfy thier raters...and thier rater's rater. What really bothers me is not the proposed fee; it's the logic (or lack of) behind it.
I also suspect the USFS wants more money accross the board since generally all the fees are going up. But my focus here is Brock Creek and I have questions. If this IS to be a money maker what is the timeline for pay back? After we pay for the administrative cost, additional levels of staffing & enforcement requirements is there any moneyactually made? Won't implementing this plan pull from resourceseitherinternally or externally? That means either hiring more people or pulling from resources already in place and aren't these resources that are all ready dealing with budget reductions?
I am not a statistical analysis genius but seems to me that somewhere, someone should have figured out if imposing fees is really going to be a revenue maker at Brock Creek (or anywhere else). Does anyone have the data on how many people use the trails at Brock Creek on any given day, week, month, year? If so, what is the breakdown of users? Is it 2 wheeled, 4 wheeled or non motorized use? Is the use shrinking, growing, or relatively level and is the data complied reflect this year, last year, the last decade or some other quantifiable timeline? Who has the numbers as to what it will cost to implement these fees and what are they? if this plan is a revenue loss or gain these figures should be a right at hand to help justify a desision. Surley the people at the USFS would not make this fee proposal if it was going to lose money. Where is the math, evidence, number crunching or Ouija board that is used to make this proposal a feasible solution to the lack of funding? Doing the work required to process these figures is often defined as "Due Diligence". Brock Creek has a campground plus three trail heads. Seems to me that this would require, at a minimum a fee box/tube & signage at each site for user convenience or is there to be a central pay location and then users will need to driver too thier trail head of choice? Then someone to collect & process the monies. You do understand that the information boards that were put in place over 10 years ago when Brock Creek was officially opened as a recreation area lasted approximately 2 weeks before they were destroyed/vandalized? Now let's talk about enforcement. The USFS Law Enforcement staffing is already weak. Is the plan to contract out or add to any existing contract the policing of the Brock Creek area? Do you plan to saturate the area for a define time with a friendly Federal Marshal like was done at Moccasin Gap trails. What additional cost will that incur? When it's all said and done does the revenue generated outweigh the cost, by how much and how long will it take to get to that point?
How can I give a reasonable response to your request for input regarding the fee proposal without considering these kind of questions that impact the proposed fees? Unless someone can show me data on these questions then it's obvious that little thought has gone into this proposal. I suggest that when you require policing of trails for compliance that it's a money loser.
To be clear; I don't mind fees per se to offset trail/recreation cost. But when implementing a fee program and it's associated cost end up with minimal or even worse a loss of revenue then please tell me; why bother with the program?
Some other questions:
Will other Brock Creek Rec. Area trail users (campers, mountain bikers, hikers, equestrian, hunters etc) share in paying the required fee? If not, why?
Is this fee and all that comes with it worth the continued alienation and discord from the public?
Has the Ozark Saint Francis Forest policy regarding making more motorized trails changed or is there still a moratorium on new trail building?
I suggest theUSFS focus more on communication with users and groups at Brock Creek sincecurrently communication it is practically non-existent.
Thanks for your tiime and I look forward to your reponse.
Well, that certainly is a letter to the USFS to put it mildly. I can see your points and believe me I understand the frustration that goes along with the term: USFS. They have, over time, built a reputation of not being very open when it comes to their agendas, policies or plans. This is just another one of their ploys to gain funds into the general coffers and then use it to some other degree. I too am fond of fees only when used in the local areas that they are collected. It doesn't look as though they have done very good research in this endeavor and I am against this proposal as proposed. I am just a little short of how you went about letting them know your stand though. Seems making them mad might not be a long term gain for anyone. And you know me, I am one that has a short fuse with these folks. Seems maybe getting some answers first then pistol whip them might be a better ploy??? Thats the directioon I went anyway. We shall see what comes back, huh?