Free access offered to Alpine Loop

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    By Kyle Thompson

    Free recreation.

    That is what the Uinta National Forest is offering on Saturday, Sept. 23. The forest’s Alpine Loop area will permit free access to recognize Public Lands Day.

    “It’s a day where we encourage people to explore the different recreational activities available,” said Lola Murray, Uinta National Forest’s Public Information Officer.

    Murray said the Alpine Loop is the only area in the forest to charge an entrance fee.

    Currently that fee is $3 per vehicle for a three-day pass.

    Alpine Loop, which stretches from the mouth of American Fork Canyon to Aspen Grove above Sundance ski resort, began charging fees in 1997, Murray said.

    The area charges fees as part of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, which allows money raised to stay in the local forest.

    Previously the entire forest relied on a budget determined at the federal level, Murray said.

    There has been some controversy about the program nationwide.

    However, Murray said that fee demonstration has been essential to improvements made to the canyon and to Timpanogos Cave.

    Among those improvements are the reconstruction of the North Fork picnic area and a new restroom near the canyon’s popular membrane rock climbing area.

    Additional staff to guide tours and patrol for vandals have also been made possible by fee demonstration, Murray said.

    Clayton Cornwell, Volunteer Coordinator for the Spanish Fork Range District, said that Uinta National Forest also benefits from a great volunteer program.

    The work done by volunteers frees up funds for projects in the forest.

    “Most other Forest Service areas don’t have a fraction of the number of volunteers that we have. People here are volunteer-oriented,” Cornwell said.

    Pleasant Grove District Volunteer Coordinator John Hendrix said that he works with 7,000-8,000 volunteers per year.

    More information on Free Access Day and volunteer programs is available by calling the Uinta National Forest office at 377-5780.

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