4 – Opposition to new recreation site (1995-1997)

(This is a part of a series of gleanings from the history of CRC’s 30 years of work; additional posts available here.)

During 1995-1997, CRC opposed a USFS proposal to build a new recreation site, initially sited at the mouth of South Fork, then moved briefly to Sunny Flat Campground. When the dust settled, the final “Recreation Concept Plan” proposed the construction of a new 40-unit campground immediately upstream from the Southwestern Research Station. (The concept later grew into a 40-to-80-unit campground!)

The new campground would have phased out the existing summer home leases on Middle Fork and threatened the water quality of Cave Creek. It would have been an intolerable neighbor for the research station. As of August 1995, the USFS had received 77 letters in opposition to this plan, and not one in favor of it.

Crystal Wash, site of the proposed mega-campground
Alligator Juniper and Emory Oak habitat near Crystal Wash, site of the proposed mega-campground
(Photo by Narca Moore)

One USFS administrator involved in discussions asked why the Southwestern Research Station could not be moved to, say, Utah.

Our response: The Forest Service (FS) claimed that a high level of usage made the new campground necessary––a claim disputed by locals. CRC members and Directors undertook a daily survey of the five nearby campgrounds, during mid-March to mid-October 1997, to test the FS claim, and found that the agency’s usage numbers were highly exaggerated. On only three days––Easter Sunday weekend and Labor Day Sunday––were all campsites occupied. 

Average monthly occupancy for the period of the survey was 43%, ranging from 29% at Herb Martyr to 68% at Stewart Campground. The two smallest campgrounds, Idlewild and Stewart, were the most popular, and, under the new FS plan, they would both have been permanently closed. CRC members Maury and Roberta Ward deserve special mention as survey organizers and participants.

For a detailed description of the campground survey, methods and results, read CRC Newsletter # 11 of November 1998

In 2000, the Forest Service eventually decided to put aside their contentious aspiration and instead address campgrounds during the upcoming Forest Service Planning process. 

CRC supported spending the Forest Service funds for campgrounds on restoring the more-heavily used Rucker Lake and its damaged campground, instead of creating a new campground within Cave Creek Canyon.

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