The public is sending mixed messages to the U.S. Forest Service about the future of a popular but primitive recreation area in central Arizona.
Some people are calling for better infrastructure at Fossil Creek near Camp Verde while others want more solitude, the Arizona Daily Sun reported Friday.
Forest Service officials are analyzing the nearly 220 public comments submitted for the development of a long-term management plan that's expected to be complete early next year.
The plan could shape road and trail access, infrastructure projects and the number of visitors allowed in the area. Fossil Creek, federally classified as a wild and scenic river, is within the Coconino and Tonto national forests.
Fossil Creek's popularity is increasing, and the Forest Service has to manage the high demand with allowing people to experience it while protecting it, project manager Marcos Roybal said.
"That's been a lot of the problem in the past. There wasn't a particularly robust management structure," he said. "Now we're looking at what it would take to accommodate a given amount of use."
Fossil Creek averages nearly 8,000 visitors a month in the six months permits are required, according to agency data. This year's permit season started in May, rather than April, because of the most recent federal government shutdown, Coconino National Forest spokesman Brady Smith said. Permits generally aren't required from Oct. 2 through March.
Some people who weighed in on a management plan want more parking and restrooms as well as better vehicle access, Roybal said. Others are concerned about more trash, threats to species and habitat and traffic that could come with increasing visitor numbers, he said.