The U.S. Forest Service is soliciting comments on its proposal to hike campground fees — in some cases, 30 to 100 percent — after 10 years of not doing so.

“These are proposed mainly to improve or add services or facilities to our recreation sites — campgrounds and rental cabins and lookouts — and to address the backlog of deferred maintenance that has resulted in deteriorated buildings and recreation sites,” said Gold Beach District Ranger Tina Lanier.

The agency posted signs last summer at the sites where fee changes are proposed.

“We have made the difficult choice to reduce staffing, services and maintenance or the availability of facilities to compensate for budget shortfalls, knowing that recreation sites are very important to the public,” Lanier said. “Meanwhile, operational costs have increased by about 10 percent in the past decade and fees have remained constant. Additionally, program funding that supplements fees has decreased by 35 percent in the same time period.”

Gold Beach district fees

In the Gold Beach Ranger District, all day-use areas that used to be free — Foster Bar, South Fork and the Lobster Creek and Quosatana campgrounds — are proposed to cost $5 a day. Boat ramps at those sites will be included and the National Interagency and Northwest Forest recreation passes will be valid for those stays.

The forest service is proposing $5 fee increases for campgrounds that currently charge fees — Foster Bar, Lobster Creek campground and Lobster Bar, and Quosatana campground — to $15 a night. New fees of $10 are proposed for Little Redwood and Oak Flat campgrounds and bar.

The Winchuck Campground will be converted to a group site and have a new fee of $50.

And popular rental cabins and lookouts will see dramatic increases under the proposal.

Ludlum House, up the Winchuck River, would go from $60 to $125 a night; Packers Cabin, from $40 to $65; Lake of the Woods lookout, from $50 to $65; Snow Camp lookout, from $40 to $65, and the new Wildhorse lookout is proposed to have a $65 fee.

The fees are based on the amenities provided at the different sites, Lanier said in a “talking point” memo.

“The forest service uses a ‘fee tool’ for site amenities and appropriate fees nationwide,” she said. “A fee range is suggested … and once the range is attained, a further comparison is made using a sample of similar sites on adjacent forest service, BLM and county opportunities.”

The fees are used to provide safe water, maintenance, interpretive services, fee collection and compliance, and patrols to clean sites and facilities, contact visitors and provide information and safety.

Last year in the Gold Beach Ranger District, money provided handicapped access at Quosatana campground and testing for lead in anticipation of painting Packer’s Cabin.

Money generated from the proposed fee increases would replace outdated toilets, improve cabins and lookouts — with propane upgrades, replacing appliances, water system maintenance and ceiling and roof repairs — improve informational kiosks and upgrade tables, fire rings and paths. They would also increase staffing to “reflect our commitment to forest visitors for quality public service,” the memo reads, and improve visitor service with more site visits, patrols and security.

Nickel and dimed

Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman said he thought the proposed fee increases fly in the face of local efforts to increase tourism to the coast.

“I know these fee increases have been in the works for a while, but it does seem like a bit of adding insult to injury for the forest service to raise fees on the heels of the Chetco Bar Fire,” he said. “Raising fees just as we are trying to attract people back to the forest for recreation seems counterproductive.”

He suggested the forest service give the Gold Beach District a one-year grace period to recovery from last year’s 191,125-acre wildfire.

A frequently-asked questions inquires about citizens who can’t afford the new fees; Lanier said many forest service sites will still be free.

“Across the forest, there are 63 campground or camping areas and no fees are charged or are proposed at 19 of them,” she said in the memo. “Of the new fees proposed, three are at campgrounds that were previously closed, four are where fees were charged in the past and three are cabins or lookouts that were previously unavailable for recreational use.”

The 10 remaining new fees are at high-use or highly-developed day use and interpretive sites, she added.

Comments about the proposal are due before Feb. 16. Written comments can be sent to Rogue River-Siskiyou N.F. ATTN: Recreation Fees, 3040 Biddle Road, Medford, OR 97504. Comments can also be emailed to Rogue_River-Siskiyou_RecFee@fs.fed.us.

For more information about this proposal, contact Rogue River-Siskiyou N.F. Recreation Program Manager Julie Martin at 541-618-2066.

Reach Jane Stebbins at jstebbins@currypilot.com .

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