By Melissa Garcia

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – Accessing free trails in Larimer County could soon come with a cost.

According to Gary Buffington, Larimer County’s Director of Natural Resources, the county held a public meeting Monday night to hear feedback on the proposed change. It would add entrance fees for some spaces and raise fees for others.

(credit: CBS)

Buffington said the county intended to garner comments on a fee study recently drafted by an independent economic consultant.

Some area locals who use the parks and open spaces said they hoped the cost would stay the same.

CBS4’s Melissa Garcia interviews Annette Quast. (credit: CBS)

Annette Quast walks at Devil’s Backbone Open Space, just west of Loveland, about every other day, along with hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.

Devil’s Backbone is just one of 14 reservoir parks and open spaces in Larimer County.

There are a total of 9 open spaces which Larimer County manages. Two of the nine charge entrance fees. The Devil’s Backbone would be the third to charge a fee.

The cost would change, however, if the Larimer County Board of Commissioners approves the proposal.

Some of the spaces currently charge $6 per day while other charge $7 per day. That entrance fee would go up to $9 per day.

Yearly passes would jump from $75 to $85.

(credit: CBS)

“I tell people it’s the Rocky Mountain High, you know? And to charge people to come in here and do this? I think there are probably just other ways that they could raise revenue,” said Harold Gonzales, a Loveland resident.

“It wouldn’t affect me in the least. I’d just ride my bike,” said Don Peterson, who bikes at Devil’s Backbone about six times per week.

Peterson hoped that the $300,000 per year increased in revenue would keep his favorite spot in good condition.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s just a great spot. I want to see it protected and I want to see it properly managed,” Peterson told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

Buffington said the additional revenue would offset the cost of growing expenses including restroom cleaning, parking management, and ranger patrols.

The fee increase would not apply to senior citizens or people with disabilities.

County officials plan to hold another public meeting in early November. Commissioners expected to make a decision on the proposal by the end of 2018.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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