Construction won’t close Fish Creek area, this year |

Construction won’t close Fish Creek area, this year

— mprovement projects that closed Fish Creek Falls recreation area last year will continue through this summer. But trail users can breathe a sigh of relief: the U.S. Forest Service plans to keep the area open all season.

Ray George, the district recreation program manager for the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Recreation District, said that last year’s park closing was a situation he wants to avoid at all costs this year.

“Last year was a nightmare,” he said. “Trying to keep people out of there while we had construction going on was impossible. I’m going to do my best to keep the area open this year. Our construction crews will work around the high-usage weeks of the summer.”

The Forest Service plans to finalize the upper trail paving this summer and install a new restroom and pump house. The majority of the construction will occur in May and June and late September and October, George said.

“Last year we had the upper parking lot paving and improvements to the lower trail down to the bridge,” George said. “We also paved about three-quarters of the upper trail and added picnic tables and a shelter.”

The existing restroom at the trailhead will be converted to a pump house. That will allow the Forest Service to install drinking fountains.

“We need a water house for pressure tanks and to service the several water fountains,” George said. “I think the improvements will help maintain the beauty and longevity of the popular spot.”

The park upgrades were paid for by the federal government’s capital improvement program, a program that George said the district submitted an application to many years ago for different park projects around the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears District.

“We sent in the application with a list of improvements based on priority,” George said. “After the improvements to the Fish Creek Falls area this year, we’re out of money. Next year the money will go to upgrading the Bear Lake campground near Yampa.”

Because of last year’s construction closings, George was relaxed about charging vehicles for parking at the area. But he said this year will be a different story.

“We need the money this year. Last year I didn’t charge people because of the construction. But now we’re in a recreation-fee demonstration program where the park gets to keep about 80 percent of the parking fees we collect,” George said. “So this year, I’ll be charging.”

To park at Fish Creek Falls, whether in the upper or lower parking lot, costs $3 per day. Users have the option of purchasing an annual pass for $10. George warned that state parks passes are not valid at the area because it is federally managed.

“We use the parking fees to help run the place,” he said. “It doesn’t pay for everything but it helps with operational expenses.”

— To reach Bryna Larsen call 871-4205 or e-mil

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