By MEGAN DARBY and AMBER HUNTER
A two-year partnership between the National Forest Service and the National Park Service has paid off.
More than $600,000 has been raised to improve American Fork Canyon since the NFS and NPS partnered to put in entrance fee booths on August 1, 1997 said Loyal Clark, public relations director for Forest Services.
Two entrance fee stations opened at each end of the Alpine Loop — one at the mouth of American Fork Canyon with another at Aspen Grove.
Clark said all the money raised has gone to improving the area.
Three promises were made to the public when the proposal was issued to charge an entrance fee — collection fees would be issued, the area would be improved and the public would be better informed, she said.
The collection fee is $3 for three days, $10 for 14 days and $25 for an annual pass.
Since the fees have been implemented most of the bathrooms have been replaced, new trailheads have been made, the parking area has been enlarged, additional rangers have been hired to enforce safety and the 1960s run-down picnic areas have been renovated, Clark said.
“Many of the locals didn’t feel like American Fork was a safe place to recreate and there was a serious gang problem, but since the fee booths were implemented we have seem a tremendous improvement and gang problems are non-existent,” Clark said.
Prior to the fee booths, vandalization in the canyon was a real problem, but now rangers are better able to protect the environment, Clark said.
Suzanne Flory, lead park ranger for Timpanogos Cave, said the amount of alcohol-related incidents has dramatically decreased. Since the entrance-fee booths were built, Utah County Police Department has reported that alcohol related citations have dropped from approximately 200 citations monthly to approximately 25 per month.
Some of the money raised has gone toward campfire evening programs.
Every Friday, Saturday and Monday night, rangers discuss topics from geology to local folklore, Flory said. The evening programs are held at Sundance, Granite Flag Campground and Timpanogos Cave Visitors Center.
Although several improvements have been made in the canyon and at the cave, some local residents still feel the recreational fee is unnecessary.
“I could see the $3 just to go through for the day,” said Pleasant Grove resident Eric Spencer, 23. “But if you are a local, you shouldn’t have to pay. Twenty-five dollars for a year fee is kind of expensive.”
Another Pleasant Grove resident, Camille Durrant, 21, still questions the fee.
“I think it stinks. I guess it is necessary because there are so many people, but it’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Durrant said. “I haven’t been around enough to notice any improvements.”