The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with plans to double the cost for camping at the North Fruita Desert campground on 18 Road as part of a larger plan to expand the number of campsites there.
The agency is going forward with a previously announced proposal to double the camping fee from $10 to $20 a night for its 59 sites there. It also is planning to eventually build 150 new campsites there, including 30 primarily for recreational vehicle use, as it responds to heavy recreational use in the popular mountain biking spot, and camper numbers sometimes far exceed the capacity of the existing campsites.
The agency is implementing the fee hike this spring.
“The North Fruita Desert has exceptional recreational opportunities and visitors love the access to the area’s bike trails directly from the campground,” BLM outdoor recreation planner Chris Pipkin said in a news release. “The BLM wants to continue to provide services and facilities that help people enjoy their experiences, and the fees help us do that.”
An initial 37 campsites were built in the North Fruita Desert area in 2005. The $10 fee was implemented in 2012, and 22 more sites were added in 2015.
Visitation at the North Fork Desert trail head rose from 77,325 in 2015 to nearly 82,000 by 2018, and the campground often is full on busy weekends. The BLM says the limited number of campsites has resulted in visitors exceeding the sites’ capacity and often parking outside parking areas and along access roads, which can restrict traffic on the road. Campers also use an unofficial overflow area for dispersed camping, and the BLM reports seeing up to 100 camps in that area on some weekends, according to an environmental assessment released late last year.
Few campers at the overflow site have portable toilet systems, resulting in toilet paper and human feces being evident at many user-created sites, the BLM says.
Revenue from the fee hike will be used for ongoing maintenance, improvement of camping facilities and development of new campsites. The pace of new campsite additions also will be contingent on funding from other sources such as fees from BLM special recreation permits, grant funding and partner contributions, the BLM says in its environmental assessment.
“We don’t have a real strict timeline. It’s just kind of as we can with what we’ve got,” BLM spokesman Eric Coulter said.
Developing the new sites, including toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, a new road and a host campground site with a water tank and septic system, would cost nearly $800,000, the BLM has estimated.
The BLM also will be implementing a new, $10 charge for each additional vehicle at a campsite beyond the two vehicles covered by the campground fee at North Fruita.
The BLM also has other plans for North Fruita Desert improvements that include creating a 19-acre event staging area for mountain bike races and other activities. The area would be partly graveled and have vault toilets and a shade shelter, and that project has an estimated price tag of more than $600,000.
The BLM also is planning to add more campsites at another heavily used local area, Rabbit Valley south of Interstate 70 near the Utah border. It wants to end up with 70-75 developed sites at Rabbit Valley, where 19 exist now, and start charging for camping at the sites.
Coulter said the agency is in the process of posting a Federal Register notice for that camping fee, which is required because it will be a new fee. The BLM can start collecting the fee six months after the notice is posted. The Rabbit Valley campground development project also will be implemented as funding allows.
The BLM also plans to phase out camping at undeveloped sites in Rabbit Valley as the new sites are built. It has pointed to vegetation loss, accumulation of trash and feces, and other impacts at visitor-created campsites that have been growing in number at Rabbit Valley.