March 3 , 2010
New Camping and Campfire Regulations Set for Fossil Creek
New rules for spring and summer recreation crowds will better protect creek resources.
SEDONA – As students and families anticipate warm weather and head for water this spring and summer, the Forest Service wants visitors to know about new camping and campfire regulations that will affect trips to Fossil Creek. Specifically, to help restore the creek, beginning March 8, 2010, campfires will be prohibited throughout Fossil Creek and camping will be limited to certain areas away from the creek.
The Arizona Wilderness Coalition supports the temporary closures at Fossil Creek because they will allow the U.S. Forest Service to assess the current condition of the creek, develop plans for protecting it, and provide safe recreational access in the future.
“Fossil Creek has been abused by inconsiderate people for too long and unfortunately, their thoughtless actions are ruining the place for responsible people who pack out their trash and are respectful,” says Sam Frank, central Arizona director for the Arizona Wilderness Coalition in Prescott. “The current closures are temporary and the recent Wild & Scenic designation will allow the Forest Service to create a specific management plan and have an on-the-ground river ranger to better protect the area.”
Big changes for Fossil Creek began in 2005 with the decommissioning of the Arizona Public Service Hydro-electric dam and the return of full water flows to the creek. The Arizona Wilderness Coalition was the principle organization that drafted the proposal for Fossil Creek to become a Wild and Scenic River, working with a broad range of stakeholders, cooperating agencies, and congressional offices to ensure that Fossil Creek’s unique water resources, wildlife, and recreational opportunities were safeguarded.
"Fossil Creek is NOT being loved to death like many people say,” says Frank. “If that were the case, people wouldn’t leave trash, break glass, rip apart vegetation for fires, use the bathroom wherever they please, spray-paint rocks, destroy signs and port-a-pottys, scare wildlife, or otherwise break rules that are put in place to sustain the area for future generations. That’s what’s happening at Fossil Creek, year after year."
The Arizona Wilderness Coalition, led by Frank, held a trash clean-up in the Fossil Springs Wilderness last fall. Volunteer backpackers—limited by group size in the wilderness—hauled out more than 80 pounds of garbage, including a full-sized family tent, beer cans, underwear, shoes, and toilet paper from the springs area of the creek. Backcountry Horsemen of Central Arizona assisted with the trash haul to stay within wilderness guidelines.
As the Forest Service works with the public to create and implement a long-term Comprehensive River Management Plan, officials and volunteers will be on site informing visitors of current and anticipated changes in how the area is managed for recreation. Because Fossil Creek is one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in Arizona, the Forest Service will be including Fossil Creek in a national Respect the Rivers campaign to connect people to their riparian environments, return watersheds and rivers to a healthy state and call on the public to become stewards of such national treasures.
AWC will continue to work with citizens and the Forest Service to ensure appropriate recreational opportunities are available and the health of the creek is maintained.
"Designating Fossil Creek a Wild and Scenic River is a wonderful tool to work towards a sustainable environment both for recreationists and nature," says Frank. AWC is currently working on protections for other parts of the Verde Watershed, including ground work for proposing the upper Verde River as a Wild and Scenic River.
Sam Frank, AWC Central Arizona Director: 928-717-6076, 928-830-8499