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God's country (copy)

Visitors take in the view above Camel Rock at Garden of the Gods near Herod in July.

The Shawnee National Forest and the Friends of the Shawnee have scheduled two additional open house meetings to gather community input on its recently announced proposal to add a $5 per-vehicle fee to six of its most popular day-use recreation sites.

Shawnee National Forest proposes new $5 fee to visit Garden of the Gods and five other sites

The first open house will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 21 in Room 116 of the Carbondale Civic Center, 200 S. Illinois Ave. The other is scheduled for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 at the Shawnee Community College Anna Extension Center, 1150 Vienna St.

“We have had a lot of good discussion about our proposal to charge day-use fees on the Shawnee National Forest, and we are using the input from people to further shape the proposal. I hope folks will take advantage of these meetings to come ask questions and provide their feedback,” Laura Lecher, recreation staff officer for the Shawnee National Forest, said in a news release announcing the meetings.

The open house forums planned for Carbondale and Anna follow one that the Shawnee and Friends of the Shawnee hosted in Harrisburg on Sept. 30. 

According to the Shawnee National Forest, one more public meeting on the fee is anticipated in November; the date and location have yet to be determined.

On Aug. 15, the forest proposed adding the day-use fees of $5 per vehicle on the following sites: Garden of the Gods Observation Trail, Pounds Hollow Beach, Johnson Creek Boat Launch, Pomona Boat Launch, Bell Smith Springs Interpretive Site and Little Grand Canyon Trailhead. Fees would be collected at a drop box. A $30 annual pass would also be made available for frequent visitors.

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If implemented, this would be the first time in the Shawnee Forest’s history that it has charged fees to visit its day sites, but fees are commonplace at other national forests across the country, U.S. Forest Service officials have said.

The Shawnee National Forest is accepting comments on the proposal through Dec. 6.

Information about the proposal and the comment form can be found on the forest website at fs.usda.gov/shawnee. Comments can be submitted through the website, via email, mail, or hand delivery to a Shawnee National Forest office.

Save the date for the open houses by visiting the Shawnee’s Facebook events page: facebook.com/shawneenatlforest/events.

Shawnee National Forest is celebrating its 80th anniversary, so here are some of our favorite forest photos

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molly.parker@thesouthern.com

618-351-5079

On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​

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