User fees for Red Cliffs could go up
Recreation • BLM draft plan would more than double cost of visiting desert area.
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The Bureau of Land Management has released a draft business plan for the Red Cliffs Recreation Area that would more than double user fees to help cover the cost of operating this scenic destination 15 miles north of St. George.

Thousands visit this 1,209-acre piece of desert around the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon near Leeds, paying $2 per carload and $8 to camp. Set in a cottonwood grove beside Quail Creek, the area includes trailheads, a day-use area and a 12-site campground. BLM proposes raising the per-car fee to $5 for day use and $15 for camping, still cheaper than Snow Canyon State Park and Zion National Park, but a little steeper than other Washington County state parks and national forests campgrounds.

This area, named for the deep hues of Navajo sandstone dominating the landscape, is located within the much larger Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, a swath of sensitive BLM-administered canyonlands and steppes hugging the southern fringes of the Pine Valley Mountains.

Visitation has climbed steadily over the past five years, reaching almost 38,000 last year and peaking every April. Over each of the past two years, the recreation area has generated more than $32,000, which covers only about one-fourth of the actual operating costs, according to the proposed plan.

The plan's goal is to generate enough revenue to cover all the costs associated with contracted services and materials, as well as fund upgrades. The plan also proposes offering an annual day-use pass for $75, or $35 for seniors, which aligns with what three nearby state parks charge.

The business plan also calls for adjusting the fee area boundaries so that visitors to the nearby White Reef Park would be charged. This change, along with the fee hike, would generate about $6,000.

Citizens may comment on the proposed changes by sending an email to kvoyles@blm.gov by Feb. 8.

bmaffly@sltrib.com