Forest Service cracks down on Camping and Prayer in Forest
Over the last few weeks the US Forest Service has been surveiling prayer circles and harassing campers and hikers near Snowbowl as to their intentions on the Peaks. Many people have been stopped and asked their feelings about Snowbowl's current construction project and if they are "pro-Snowbowl." Some are even given citations by the USFS law enforcement from anywhere from $75 to $300 if they are visibly against Snowbowl's project. It has been reported that sometimes USFS refers to a book of pictures of people perported to be camping on the peaks. Anyone found in the book has been given a citation.
This has not deterred camping in the woods around Snowbowl at all, and many people have continued to "camp for the Peaks" so the Forest Service is attempting an even more drastic step. They want to ban camping! The USFS feels that camping leads to the equipment at Arizona Snowbowl being hurt. No evidence to support any of these claims has been presented, and a questioning of Jon Nelson, the patrol captain at the Coconino Forest Service Law Enforcement stated that "someone put sugar in the gas tank of some equipment and other things were vandalized. A sign was grafittied." I am not sure what this has to do with camping on the peaks.
It would seem that it was more likely a hiker in my opinion. But I guess, one ban at a time. When they find out that the campers were in fact just camping and bearing witness and a "hiker" goes and destroys something because they are so angry that Snowbowl is in the process of the most violent desecration they have seen in their lifetime, then I guess they will blindly protect Snowbowl a bit more and ban all hiking and walking too. Here is the press release they sent in advance of the anticipated camping ban. Which is different than the unsigned camping ban they handed campers last week. The only difference is the dates of closure. The release below states, November 2011 as the end of the ban, while the printed copy reports August 2013.
I like how they say they will still allow for religious practices in the area, but suddenly "recreational camping" is not such a high priority for them. Usually the "need to recreate" trumps all other cards :P
Sep. 2, 2011
Leroux Springs Area Closure, Snowbowl Ski Area
Background: The ski area, currently known as the Arizona Snowbowl, encompasses 777 acres of NFS lands and operates under a Special Use Permit issued by the Coconino National Forest. TheArizona Snowbowl Ski Resort was approved to initiate construction of a water pipeline following the February 2005 Record of Decision to provide snowmaking capabilities. Construction has been ongoing as of May 24, 2011 adjacent to Snowbowl Road (FR516) from Highway 180 to the ski area. Coconino Law Enforcement has been actively patrolling the area since the construction began. There has been an escalation of incidents involving acts of vandalism to private and Forest Service property caused by campers being allowed to camp within close proximity to the construction and permitted area. To date more than $3,000 dollars of damage has occurred and the project has experienced delays.
Current Status: The Coconino National Forest will be instituting a camping ban at Leroux Springs to allow for greater security of equipment, buildings and personnel working in the area.
The trailheads for the Kachina Peaks Wilderness receive high visitation by forest users including the sky ride at Arizona Snowbowl. Forest Service employees frequently work in the area and contract workers are operating large equipment. To provide for the health, safety and property protection of contractors, public users, and Forest Service employees, camping will be restricted in the area shown on the attached map. Recreation opportunities would still be available in the closure area, although limited to day use. Camping will still be allowed at nearby designated camp sites along Freidlein Prairie Road and “Big Camp” along the Humphrey’s trail. The closure order will be in effect until November 30, 2011. At that time, the Forest will determine if an extension of the order is necessary.
The Coconino National Forest will post the order and informational signage at access points and railheads in the area, and will issue a press release prior to implementation of the closure. The closure area will also be posted. The Forest’s Tribal Relations Liaison will make personal contacts with Tribes to explain the closure and to assure them that the Forest will facilitate their continued use of the area for religious and cultural purposes.