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Overnight use banned at campsites ‘loved to death’ in Payson area

(U.S. Forest Service Photo)

PHOENIX – The U.S. Forest Service has banned overnight stays at six campsites along Payson-area rivers and streams that have been damaged by overuse.

“This is a new restriction basically because the areas are being loved to death,” Carrie Templin, Tonto National Forest spokesperson, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

“If you live in the desert Southwest, we like to camp near water and so the areas have just gotten so overused that we need those areas to recover.”

The restrictions are intended to allow plants and grass to regrow in the areas. The vegetation holds soil in place and prevents erosion that degrades water quality.

The overnight restrictions went into effect last month at three Payson Ranger District campsites on the East Verde River (Flowing Springs, Verde Glen Dude Creek and Washington Park) and one area each on Christopher Creek (See Canyon), Tonto Creek (Bear Flat) and Webber Creek.

Each restricted area covers 200 feet on either side of the water. (The specific locations can be found here.)

The order is in effect until April 2024, but it could be lifted earlier.

Violations could result in fines of up to $5,000 per person, $10,000 per organization and six months in prison.

Visitors are still welcome to use the areas during the day.

“There are some areas you can park and you can drive along any of those road stretches,” Templin said.

“The only restriction is that you cannot camp overnight along those stream regions.”

Templin said most of the streams involved feed into the Verde River, which helps supply drinking water to Phoenix.

“It’s important to all of us to protect these water courses and have as high a water quality as possible so we have safe drinking water,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Amy Phol contributed to this report.

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