For the week of May 19, 1999  thru May 25, 1999  

 

Fees postponed at Silver Creek


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

SILVER CREEK PRESERVE MANAGER Paul Todd said when people became aware of the possibility of user fees, they voluntarily donated more money.

Silver Creek Preserve, owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy, will not set up a user fee program this summer, or ever, if local support continues as it did last year.

The preserve’s administrators had previously announced the possibility of implementing such a fee, due to concerns that increasing use was not keeping pace with donations from visitors.

According to the preserve’s area manager, Paul Todd, those visitors—primarily fly fishers—increased from less than a thousand in 1970 to over 10,000 in 1998. Trampled riparian areas and people feeling over-crowded resulted.

Prior to 1998, he said, only about 20 percent of preserve visitors were members of The Nature Conservancy, and the average visitor was donating only about $1 per visit. As a result, a year ago, the preserve seriously considered implementing a user fee, which probably would have been around $8 per day or $75 per year.

Before implementing a fee, the preserve’s officials decided to launch a public awareness campaign, with the goal of increasing visitors’ Nature Conservancy memberships to 50 percent and collecting at least $5 per visitor per day through donations.

"If we could get close to this goal, we felt we could avoid a fee system," Todd said.

People listened, he said. Memberships rose from 20 percent in 1997 to 30 percent in 1998. Also, the average donation more than doubled in 1998 to $2.80 per visitor per day.

The additional money has funded construction of walkways and more access points to the creek.

"We still have a ways to go to reach our goal," Todd said, "but with this great start and people’s continued support we believe Silver Creek Preserve can remain a special place where we can enjoy Idaho’s environment without a structured fee system."

Silver Creek and its tributaries are just southeast of the Belleview Triangle. There, numerous springs bubble up through the high desert into an oasis-like watershed.

Silver Creek Preserve covers 479 acres along the creek and its tributaries. In addition, The Nature Conservancy holds 20 conservation easements on over 8,000 acres and 25 miles of stream-side ranch land.

The area is renowned for its healthy fishery and an abundant, biologically diverse ecosystem.

Silver Creek’s fishing season will open on Saturday, May 29, Memorial Day weekend.

 

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