Arizona Bear-Proofing Many Campgrounds

April 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Arizona Bear-Proofing Many Campgrounds 

There have only been 10 bear attacks in Arizona since 1990. But the attack at Ponderosa Campground on June 24, 2012, marked the second incident at that very campsite and the third in the state over a one-month span.

In response to last year’s attacks, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is working with the U.S. Forest Service to bear-proof Payson-area campgrounds and raise awareness about the dangers that may arise any time for those camping in bear country, the Tucson Sentinel reported.

“The big thing is to be bear-aware,” said Rachael Hohl, recreation manager for the Tonto National Forest’s Payson Ranger District.

As part of the “Bear Aware” campaign, signs, pamphlets and brochures with information and safety tips can now be found throughout Ponderosa and other area campgrounds.

So far, the Forest Service has equipped 27 of 260 area campsites with metal storage containers for food, while campgrounds have bear-proof trash receptacles, Hohl said.

Dave Daniels, Payson wildlife manager for Game and Fish, said keeping scents that attract bears out of campsites is a big part of the campaign.

“Don’t bring your Snickers bars or dirty diapers into your tent,” he said. “Bears, or any animal with a large rostrum (nose), will be attracted by smell, so that means food, garbage or anything it thinks it can eat.”

Daniels cited last year’s severe drought as the main reason for so much bear activity in such a short time.

“The water not only provides drinking water for them but it also provides food for them because all the plant life they eat needs rain to grow,” he said. “So when there’s a drought, there’s a lack of water and food and that’s when some of your wildlife starts to wander.”

The drought is less pronounced this year, Daniels said, and because the sites are more bear-proof now, campers should not be deterred from visiting the area.

According to wildlife experts, black bear attacks are rare and fatal attacks are extremely uncommon. A woman walking her dog late at night was fatally mauled in Pinetop two years ago; before that, Arizona’s last documented fatality was in the late 1800s.

If a bear does attack, officials say it’s important to stand up, raise your arms and shout while backing away.

The offending bear in the 2012 attacks still hasn’t been found, but officials are keeping an eye out for it.

“If he is still out there, he’s likely to return to doing what he knows, which happens to be raiding campgrounds and causing these kinds of problems,” said Randy Babb, information and education program manager for Game and Fish’s Mesa region.

Hohl noted that the possibility of running into a bear is remote.

“Mostly what you see of bears is their butts because they’re usually running away,” she said. “That being said, it’s important to remember that as humans, we’re guests in a bear’s environment.”



RV Park and Campground Briefs

July 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on RV Park and Campground Briefs 


From the Associated Press:

An 11th lawsuit has been filed over the deaths of 20 people in the flooding of the Albert Pike Campground in southwestern Arkansas.

The Texarkana Gazette reports ( that the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Texarkana, Ark., alleges “malicious and willful” neglect on the part of the U.S. Forest Service in the death of 38-year-old Eric Wayne Sultz of Nash, Texas.

The government has asked that the lawsuits be dismissed — claiming it has sovereign immunity and that state law protects it against claims filed by survivors and families of flood victims.

The victims from Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas drowned after heavy rain fell the night of June 10, 2010, and the Little Missouri River rose from three to more than 20 feet in a matter of hours.



Alberta’s provincial campgrounds are getting a $24 million facelift this season.

The Alberta government is spending the money this year to modernize several of its campgrounds, as the number of people using holiday trailers steadily outnumbers the tents, reported.

The province’s improvements include adding power and water hookups to its campgrounds, adding nicer washrooms and bigger sites for RVs, says Katrina Bluetchen of Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.

“We’re interested in keeping pace with what campers are interested in. So, for us, that’s meant making some changes to our parks,” says Bluetchen.

Last long weekend, provincial reservations were up 25 percent from the year before.


From the East Oregonian:

Hermiston City Council may consider a tax on hotel, motel and RV park stays in order to fund a marketing campaign for the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, the EOTEC Authority chairman announced Friday.

Chairman Ed Brookshier, also the Hermiston city manager, said he would wait on an OK from the EOTEC hotel and marketing subcommittee before bringing the tax proposal to the Hermiston City Council on July 23. If approved, the tax would take effect Aug. 1. Brookshier said he expects to hear from the subcommittee by July 20.


From the Las Vegas Sun:

The campgrounds, trails and picnic areas of Mount Charleston will begin receiving makeovers throughout the summer, which will leave many of them closed for construction, U.S. Forest Service officials said in a release.

Officials said plans include adding picnic spots, improving gathering spaces and building new pathways among other improvements for visitors to enjoy. Construction will take place at Cathedral Rock Picnic Area, Desert View Overlook, Kyle Canyon Campground and Lovell Canyon Road.

Officials said Cathedral Rock Picnic Area is currently closed and will reopen in early 2014. They plan to add 68 picnic spots, two group picnic spots, a new gathering space, water system and toilet facilities. They also said there would also be a larger parking area for easier access.

Kyle Canyon Campground will be the next to close on July 21 to renovate the picnic area and won’t reopen again until 2013, officials said. Officials said the entire northern end of Lovell Canyon Road after mile 6 will be closed for a month beginning after Labor Day.

Desert View Overlook along Deer Creek Highway will also receive more accessible parking and a 1,100-foot-long pathway taking visitors through the vistas along the valley.



One man was hospitalized after lightning struck a tree at the Knoll Lake Campground about 90 miles from Flagstaff, Coconino County officials said.

Thunderstorms rolled through the area Friday afternoon (July 13) and a significant amount of lightning was reported around the campground, said Brady Smith, public information officer for the Coconino National Forest.

The man was reportedly alert and conscious when medical personnel arrived, officials said. He was injured after lightning struck a tree in the area, but his injuries were not specified.

The injured man was taken to a hospital by Guardian Medical Transport, officials said.


Campgrounds in the Tonto National Forest and Kaibab National Forest reopened on July 14 after officials decided to lift fire restrictions.

The Houston Mesa and Horse Camp campgrounds at the Tonto National Forest reopened at 6 a.m. on Saturday, forest officials said. The area was closed after a series of fires broke out in the area on June 21.

All other parts of the Tonto National Forest’s temporary fire closure still remain in effect.





3 Bears Suspected in Attacks Test Negative for Rabies

June 28, 2012 by · Comments Off on 3 Bears Suspected in Attacks Test Negative for Rabies 

DNA tests on three black bears that were killed near Payson have come back negative for the rabies virus, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, reported.

The bears are thought to be connected to three attacks in the Payson area in the last month, but officials are awaiting separate DNA test results for confirmation. If any of the bears are matched to the attacks, then the victims won’t need a series of rabies vaccines.

Rabies testing was necessary to determine if the victims were exposed to the virus and can only be conducted on a deceased animal, making it necessary to lethally remove the bears.

Rabies is almost always fatal if an exposed person doesn’t get a vaccine in time.

A 74-year-old woman sleeping in a tent in the Ponderosa Campground was attacked May 31. A construction worker was attacked June 21 while he was sleeping in an unfinished cabin in the Thompson Draw II community near Tonto Village. A 30-year-old Tempe man was attacked by a bear June 24 while sleeping in a tent in the Ponderosa Campground.

The Ponderosa, Christopher Creek and Sharp Creek campgrounds, all located along Highway 260, will remain closed until the Arizona Game and Fish Department feels confident campers are safe from further bear attacks.

Bear Count Reaches Three in Arizona

June 26, 2012 by · Comments Off on Bear Count Reaches Three in Arizona 

Arizona authorities have now killed three bears in the Tonto National Forest after three attacks on three people since May 31 in the Payson area. Since 1990, there have now been a total of 10 confirmed bear attacks within the state, KPHO-TV, Phoenix, reported.

Game and Fish Department officials said two packs of hound dogs picked up the scents Sunday night (June 24) of two bears near the Ponderosa Campground, the site of the recent attacks.

One male American black bear was found one mile below the campground and one large adult female was found in Hellsgate Wilderness.

The hounds chased the bears into trees and officials fatally shot both of the bears.

The third bear was killed by Game and Fish ground crew.

Authorities said they are conducting tests on the dead bears to determine if they have the ones involved in the non-fatal attacks.

Tonto National Forest officials have temporarily closed all six campgrounds in the Payson ranger district until at least July 15 because of the bear attacks. They recommended campgrounds in the Coconino and Apache Sitgraves national forests for people who desire to camp.

RV Park and Campground Briefs

June 14, 2012 by · Comments Off on RV Park and Campground Briefs 


From The Peninsula Daily News:

Contractors will use a series of controlled blasts to lower the Glines Canyon Dam in July, necessitating a safety-related closure of Altair Campground.

The campground will close on the evening of July 1 and will remain closed through the entire month.

“Dam removal contractor Barnard Construction will be working steadily throughout the month of July to lower Glines Canyon Dam,” said Olympic National Park Acting Superintendent Todd Suess.

“With the rest of the summer work season restricted by ‘fish windows,’ Barnard needs to maximize their efforts throughout July.”

Controlled blasting will result in more a sudden water release than the hydraulic hammer previously used in the removal work at Glines Canyon Dam.

“While we regret the inconvenience to our visitors, safety concerns dictate that we must close Altair Campground for the month of July,” explained Suess.

Visitors are reminded that the Glines Canyon Dam and the former Elwha Dam site are still active construction areas and are closed to all public entry.


From KPHO-TV, Phoenix:

A Northern Arizona campground where a bear attacked a woman this month has reopened.

Tonto National Forest officials said there have been no signs of the bear returning to the Ponderosa Campground following the May 31 attack. The campground is just off Highway 260 about 10 miles east of Payson.

A 74-year-old woman awoke in her tent to a bear clawing at her. Officials said after tearing open the tent, the bear reportedly stuck its head in and clawed at the woman. She had bruises and a laceration on her scalp.

The bear they have been looking for is considered a category one bear, which means it is aggressive enough to be destroyed if it is found or captured, said Game and Fish Wildlife Manager Jarrod McFarlin.

Arizona Game and Fish officials said the strategies they employed to catch the animal did not work. They cautioned the public there have been more bear sightings reported this year because of the ongoing drought.


From the Sturgis Journal:

Cade Lake and Nottawa parks would be the primary areas patrolled by the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department if a funding request from county officials is approved next week.

At a special meeting Tuesday of the St. Joseph County Parks and Recreation Commission, members agreed to ask the county commission for an allocation of about $6,000. That would cover expenses for a part-time deputy to patrol the two parks, which are the only county parks with campsites.

Coverage would center on Nottawa Park at Sand Lake and Cade Lake Park in Fawn River Township.

Parks and rec commission member Jerry Ware, liaison to the county commission, said he’s aware that the two campgrounds occasionally draw guests who sometimes disregard park rules and dismiss requests from on-site park managers to abide by instructions.

He said more problems — including cases of drunkenness — seem to come from Nottawa Park than Cade Lake Park.

Ware said rangers have only so much authority and the presence of a sworn deputy might discourage conduct and violations contradicting park rules.


From The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.:

Kit Price and Devils Elbow Campgrounds are temporarily closed to the public while construction crews work to improve the campground water systems and repave roads, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced today.

The popular campgrounds on the North Fork of the Cour d’Alene River about 40 miles north of I-90 at Kingston are scheduled to reopen in July.


Arizona Campground Closed After Bear Attack

June 1, 2012 by · Comments Off on Arizona Campground Closed After Bear Attack 

A bear attacked and injured a 74-year-old Arizona woman camping east of Payson in northern Arizona on Thursday (May 31), and now hounds and men are tracking the animal to put it down, Fox News reported.

The Apache Junction woman had minor bruises and a cut to her face after the black bear ripped a hole in the tent where she, her husband and dog had been sleeping at a campground in the Tonto National Forest, said Jim Paxon, a spokesman with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The couple was able to scare off the large adult bear by making a lot of commotion.

“They are very, very lucky,” Paxon said. “Anytime a bear rips through a tent and enters it with humans in it, that’s a pretty big threat.”

The woman was treated at Payson Regional Medical Center, including getting a staple for the cut to her face, and was back at home by Thursday afternoon. She had to be sedated because of the traumatizing experience, Paxon said.

The couple’s names were not released, and Paxon said they did not want to speak to reporters Thursday.

He said the black bear will be euthanized once hounds and wildlife officials track it down because the attack was “too close for comfort.”

“The bear poses a threat to public safety,” he said. “We can’t take any chances.”

Paxon said the woman and her husband are avid campers and did everything right, including locking up all their food and cookware in the cab of their pickup truck and not having any food in the tent.

He cited the long-term Arizona drought as a possible reason for the attack, adding there is “not much for these bears to eat so they’re looking for a meal, and that’s what this bear was doing.”

Paxon said the bear recently was seen hanging around the campsite’s trash bins and wildlife officials had been distributing pamphlets warning campers.

Just hours before the early-morning attack, the Ponderosa Campground host spotted the bear and chased it until it ran away, Paxon said.

The campground was evacuated after the attack and now will be closed until Aug. 31 as a precaution.

Only seven bear attacks have been documented in Arizona since 1990, including Thursday’s, according to Game and Fish.

Last year on June 28, 61-year-old Lana Hollingsworth died after being attacked by a black bear while walking her dog outside her vacation home in Pinetop in eastern Arizona.


Forest Service Action Angers Park Residents

January 31, 2012 by · Comments Off on Forest Service Action Angers Park Residents 

Satellite view of Roosevelt Lake (center) located in Arizona's Tonto National Forest. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

After a decade of threats, the Tonto National Forest is moving to shut down a 167-resident mobile home park overlooking Roosevelt Lake near Payson, Ariz.

The Forest Service has decided that the decades-long lease of the land for the park filled mostly with trailers owned by vacation homeowners violates its policy barring exclusive private use of public lands, The Payson Roundup reported.

However, the operators of the trailer park located 30 miles east of Phoenix say the action will shut down the only sewage treatment operation in the area and could dry up business at the marina that represents one of the few economic enclaves on the southern shore of the lake.

The people with mobile homes in the park have until January 2013 to move them, but many of the homes are so old they don’t meet modern standards necessary to relocate to another park, said David Buckmaster, the leaseholder.

“It doesn’t surprise anybody. We started having people sign disclosure forms in 2000, but it’s going to have a huge economic impact on local businesses. They’re all scared to death.”

Tonto Basin District Head Ranger Kelly Jardine said the 21-acre lease has existed for more than 30 years, but in about 1995, administrators concluded the lease conflicted with the Forest Plan.

“The Forest Service policy is to deny exclusive use or preferential use of the national forest and to provide accommodations in a manner that ensures availability of the facilities for general use.”

No Other Plans in the Works

Jardine said the Forest Service has no other plans for the use of the land, one of the few places where people can live close to the shores of Roosevelt Lake between Globe and Payson.

The residents have one more year to move out, he said. “There’s really no way we could issue a (new) permit under current regulations. Of course, it’s a difficult situation for the homeowners. The Forest Service sympathizes with the situation that they’re being put into with the uncertainty and the disruption in their life that results from this change. So we’re sympathetic to that.”

Buckmaster said he hopes many residents can qualify for help from a state fund that will help them move their mobile homes. The fund will pay up to $5,000 to move a trailer to a new location within 50 miles. However, many of the trailers date back to before new standards went into effect in 1976, which means owners can’t move them to new parks and may end up abandoning them.

Buckmaster said the park pays about $10,000 to $20,000 annually in fees to the Forest Service and provides a $7,000-a-month sewage treatment operation that also serves many local businesses and the sheriff’s substation and the nearby marina. The park charges rent of $190 per month, plus a $65 monthly fee for handling sewage. Overall, the park generates about $400,000 in revenues annually, said Buckmaster.

Shari Harper, who manages the park with her husband, said one economic study showed that the park interjected $2.5 million annually into the local economy as a result of spending by the residents.

She said only eight to 10 residents live there full time, the rest come up on the weekend. The park also operates 10 RV spaces, which rarely fill up.

“It’s not about losing homes, it’s 167 families that come out here to vacation here — and they bring $2.5 million from outside Gila County into the local economy. For the Forest Service it’s all about public use. But there’s a lot of public use happening here in a very green way. It’s just like all the rest of government, they want to throw away a cash cow —which is us.”

RV Development Unlikely

Buckmaster said the Forest Service invited him to apply for a new lease that would comply with its guidelines, which would mean operating some business open to the general public like a campground or RV park.

However, he said the area doesn’t get enough visitors to make a go of a private campground or overnight RV spaces. He noted that the Forest Service has developed about 1,200 RV spaces around the lake, which virtually never fill up.

“I’ve been in this type of business most of my life. I don’t think a person could get funding to build a hotel and couldn’t get the business to make a go of it. We have 10 full hookups for RV spaces and our year-round occupancy is about 6 percent. If we had an RV park and campground, maybe 25 days a year we could really fill up, the other 250 days we’d do nothing but try to pay the bills on the wastewater plant.”

Similar Action 5 Years Ago

He said the Forest Service did the same thing five years ago to shut down a small park near the Apache Lake Marina.

Dianne DeMeyere, who had a trailer at Apache Lake before that shutdown, wrote Buckmaster a letter of “condolence and outrage.”

“My outrage is because of what happened at Apache Lake. The ‘government line’ there was also that it is unfair to allow such a beautiful spot to be enjoyed by a small group of people, and that it should be available to the public. As of the last time we were there — a year ago — it had been five years since the residents were booted out and the Forest Service would still not allow the campground to be redeveloped. What was once a bustling campground, full of citizens who took pride in the area and employees who sacrificed to work in the wilderness became a ghost town struggling to exist.

“The Forest Service shows no knowledge of the difficulty getting to Roosevelt and especially Apache, and seems to think that hordes of RVers will brave those roads for a weekend. Also, according to an Apache Lake employee, they will not allow redevelopment until the land is restored to its ‘original condition’ — including trees that take 20 years to grow,” she wrote.

No Appeals Process

The Forest Service has no process that would allow Buckmaster to appeal the decision not to renew the lease, said Jardine.

“There really isn’t an appeals process, other than an appeal to their congressional representative.”

Buckmaster said he has appealed to the state’s U.S. senators and Congressman Paul Gosar for help. He has also explored the idea of winning a reprieve by providing wastewater treatment services for the Forest Service visitors center, which currently gets its water from eight miles away and trucks out its waste.

“We would love to be a good neighbor and stay in business and allow them to use our systems. I’m not going to have a war with the Forest Service,” said Buckmaster.

“It’s not really a fight, but we’re definitely looking at our options,” said Buckmaster.

“It doesn’t do you any good to fight the government. You never win if you fight. But we’re trying to negotiate something that will allow us to still be around. But, gosh, there’s only so much that can be done without some kind of congressional intervention.”

Still, he doesn’t sound hopeful.

“Whenever decisions are made in big government, they’re way up the food change — so it’s kind of hard to change because you don’t quite know where to go to change them.”

RV Park Plan Irks Forest Land Residents

July 14, 2011 by · Comments Off on RV Park Plan Irks Forest Land Residents 

One hundred and sixty residents at Lakeview Park in Roosevelt, Ariz., are fighting to keep their homes on U.S. Forest Service land.

The residential park, which has existed since 1973, has become the focus of U.S. Forest Service interests to add extra RV spots around Roosevelt Lake. The creation of an RV park requires that the 160 mostly part-time residents of the current mobile home park have to leave the property, The Arizona Silver Belt, Globe, reported.

The Roosevelt Lakeview Park was originally built on a Special Use Permit approved by the U.S. Forest Service in 1973. Now the Forest Service is ending that Special Use Permit on Dec. 30, 2012, to clear the land for an RV park. The residents have been trying to meet with officials to ask why the need.

The Forest Service’s decision to turn Lakeview Park into an RV park dates back to 1997, when the government entity spent $42 million to construct 1,500 publically accessible improved campsites within the Tonto National Forest, of which 829 are located around Roosevelt Lake. According to Forest Service numbers provided to park residents, there is allegedly a need for more RV spaces.

Park residents counter, however, saying that the numbers show that occupancy rates of the improved sites fall dramatically short of 100%, with three weekends a year accounting for spikes in the average. According to U.S. Forest Service numbers, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekends show a high traffic rate of 90%, 75% and 80%, respectively.

The numbers also show that the improved sites have 60% occupancy during spring and only 40% during winter. Residents highlight that, according to the Forest Services own numbers, yearly occupancy rates average 50%, peaking on three holiday weekends. These three weekends represent 2.4% of the 365 total public access days.

The residents have now taken their cause to various government leaders on both the county and federal levels. Gila County Supervisor Mike Pastor has been a key player on the county level in bringing attention to the issue of the expiring Special Permit Use. He has listened and visited with park residents and sees the need to bring all the players to the same table to talk about a sustainable solution to the situation.

The issue of the park on Special Permit property is not new to the residents who have had to fight to keep their homes and comply with a number of requests made by the Forest Service over the decades. They have presented their cause to many legislators and now one is going beyond just listening. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar sent a representative of his office to Lakeview Park on July 6 to meet with residents and collect their comments. Constituent Services Director Penny Pew took pages of notes as residents spoke of their concerns and questioned the motives behind the RV park plans.

Tonto National Forest Fee Outcry May Prompt Change

June 1, 2011 by · Comments Off on Tonto National Forest Fee Outcry May Prompt Change 

Coping with a public outcry, Tonto National Forest officials are casting about for an alternative to imposing day use fees on people who use parking areas along the East Verde River near Payson, Ariz., and on popular trailheads, the Payson Roundup reported.

“There’s definitely some tweaks and adjustments we can make,” said Tom Klagunde, deputy forest supervisor for the 3-million-acre Tonto National Forest, which draws an estimated 6 million visitors annually, making it one of the most heavily visited forests in the country.

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