Will fees and gates help protect South Colony Lakes, or is this just the start of bureaucratic regulations that will eventually ruin everything good about public lands? This is what I pondered as I read a story in the Gazette today about a new series of use fees for popular trailheads.
No doubt South Colony Lakes, the popular portal to four fourteeners, needs some TLC. For years, the Forest Service's plan for controlling recreation there seamed to be letting the road fall apart, but that hasn't stopped the use. If anything, it's attracted a certain rock-crawling Jeep element.
So now the feds are gating the road a few miles down and creating a proper trailhead where hikers will be charged a fee of $5 - $10.
Makes sense but there may be unintended consequences. The area is surrounded by almost pristine basins that may get no more than a dozen visitors a year (South Colony can see 400 on a summer weekend.) The new fees may encourage people to use the less-visited basins, which may not be a good thing for wildlife. Hard to know what to do in a situation like this.