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User fees make money in Aspen

Brief by Central Staff

Public Lands – February 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

User fees to visit National Forests are not popular in some areas (see the January 2002 edition), but they seem to be working in the Aspen area.

The fees are charged to almost all visitors to the Maroon Valley, the place that offers that spectacular view of the Maroon Bells which just might be the most photographed image in Colorado.

Last year was the first full season for the fees, which are collected at a tollgate from June through October — snow closes the road the rest of the year.

The access fees raised $126,000, most of it (75%) coming from a $10-a-car charge for private vehicles. Bus passengers at 50ยข a head provide more revenue. Commercial tours pay $3 per customer, and outfitters pay $1 a head. Cyclists, in-line skaters, and other non-motorized users are not charged.

The Forest Service reported spending $65,256 on salaries to collect the $126,000 and $14,000 for maintenance. A $20,000 profit will go for rehabilitating area campgrounds, while $12,000 went to the Forest Service regional office in Lakewood — where it will be used to cover the expenses for setting up other “fee demonstration programs.”