No confirmed plans to close campgrounds upriver from Meeker

Meeker area residents and recreationalists can rest a little easier regarding concerns about the closure of multiple upriver campgrounds. “In my career this is the third round where we’ve nationally looked at our developed sites in the forest,” Rich Doak, White River National Forest staff officer for recreation explained, referring to the Recreational Site Analysis (RSA) process. “We went through this in 2007 on the White River, and prior to that in 1987-89. It’s a periodic thing, not something new.” Doak said the Forest Service reviews various elements for sites under analysis, including long-term sustainability, public usage, resource damage, etc., in order to determine where to best apply their resources. “We’re looking at 160 developed sites across the forest and asking those questions,” Doak said. At this point in the RSA, data has been collected, various scenarios examined and the local districts have made some recommendations. “Those recommendations come to the leadership team and the team will make an initial recommendation on what they’d like to see us do,” Doak said, adding, “Some sites will be not changed, some sites may be tweaked. There may be changes in operating seasons, or we may reduce sites that have low occupancy. The ball park is wide open.” The recommendations from the leadership team will be narrowed down and presented for public comment. “What we’re really hoping for are options and alternatives, not just people saying, ‘don’t do this,’” Doak said, offering as an example a small campground at the end of a bad road in another district. When the Forest Service recommended closing the campground, a local company that runs a nearby reservoir stepped up to take over much of the responsibility for the campground, freeing up needed resources for the Forest Service. Once the comment period is completed, the Forest Service will review the plan again, incorporating the comments, and create a proposal. Depending on the actions proposed, the public may have another opportunity to comment before the 5-year implementation plan gets underway. In regard to the calls, emails, and social media comments received, Doak said, “At this stage of the game all we have are ideas down on paper. I have not seen any ideas on what I’ve read that even come close to what I’ve read on social media.” The Forest Service will send out a press release and make the information about the proposal available as a project page on their website, and encourages interested parties to subscribe to email updates. “It’s not going to be a secret,” said Jerman. “Our goal is to keep our rec sites up-to-date and provide what the public desires,” Doak said. “We want all our sites to be high quality, and so we have to be realistic about what we can continue to sustain in the future.” According to Kate Jerman, public affairs officer for WRNF, reaching the phase of public comments will take three months or longer.