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Time Out Called to Protect Abused Arizona Creek

March 8, 2010

PRESCOTT, Ariz. - New camping and campfire restrictions take effect today at central Arizona's Fossil Creek. Five years ago, the creek was reborn as a free-flowing stream when a small power plant was removed. Since then, the creek has been popular for recreation.

However, the area also has been abused for too long by inconsiderate people, according to Sam Frank, central Arizona director for the Arizona Wilderness Coalition.

"There's spray paint on rocks, trees being ripped down, trash everywhere of every kind imaginable. People going to the bathroom where they please and when they please. The porta-potties and the trash receptacles are being vandalized, burned down, tipped over."

The new, temporary regulations prohibit open campfires. Camping will be limited to developed grounds away from the creek, and a Forest Service ranger will be on patrol. These restrictions will protect the area while a specific management plan is developed that will balance recreational uses with the health of Fossil Creek, Frank says.

"They will have an opportunity to get some of their specialists - biologists, archaeologists - out there, find where areas are suitable for camping and campfires, and then create a plan based on what's best for meeting the recreation needs as well as what's going to be sustainable for the creek and the environment around there."

Frank says those abusing the creek are a minority, that many people are being responsible and doing the right thing. He gives an example from a volunteer trash clean-up last fall.

"We saw a fellow hiking out with a gigantic cooler roped to his back. And I thought to myself, here's the prime example of why we're having to come down here. This guy probably went down with a full cooler and now he's coming up with an empty cooler and left all the contents down there. So I said 'Hi, how are you doing?' And he said, 'I'd be doing better if I wasn't carrying out someone else's garbage.'"

Congress last year designated Fossil Creek as one of the nation's Wild and Scenic rivers.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ