Since our readers were introduced last fall to the story of James Smith, the hiker who refused to pay a parking ticket in the Red Rock Ranger District and won in federal court, the controversy surrounding the Red Rock Pass has erupted.

The U.S. Forest Service has taken a step back and decided to listen to what residents have to say about the pass and fees for recreating in the red rocks.

USFS staff has held several public meetings to present its data and ask the public to give it feedback before a decision is made on the future of the pass program.

I suggested in an editorial last fall locals should receive some sort of discount since the Coconino National Forest and Red Rock Ranger District are, in fact, our backyard. I’ve come to understand since then giving locals a discount isn’t possible because it’s federal land and therefore all citizens of the United States have equal right to use of the land.

It makes sense the U.S. Forest Service, a federal department, cannot favor one group of citizens over another.

So, the question is not should residents get a free pass, but should anyone have to pay to play in Sedona’s outdoors.

I recently made a trip to Palatki Ruins just outside Sedona for an article.

A pass is required to park at Palatki, and I had no problem paying for several reasons.

First off, there is a bathroom on site for visitors. Add to that a visitor center, educated guides and information available on the history of the site.

Paying to park at the ruins is completely expectable due to the time and energy the volunteers and employees at the site expend to maintain the site for visitors. Most people don’t have a problem paying a fee to visit an area where knowledgeable people are available to answer questions and lead you around.

However, I, and many others, have a problem when we have to pay to hike or simply park at an undeveloped trailhead.

The outdoors has always been a place to play where I didn’t have to pay admission, and with that comes responsibility and the understanding nobody is going to clean up after me.

Good outdoors-people understand Leave No Trace outdoor ethics and practice them, and we are the people who don’t want to be charged unless amenities are provided.

There is a balance to be found with fees, and some sites warrant fees. However, slapping a blanket pass program on the entire area isn’t fair. USFS needs to determine if a fee is appropriate on a site-by-site basis.