State parks to hike fees | TahoeDailyTribune.com

State parks to hike fees

Greyson Howard / Sierra sun

California State Parks will raise fees as part of efforts to chip away at $14.2 million taken by the state.

The California Legislature recently voted to take $8 million from the state parks funding, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took another $6.2 million in line-item vetoes, leaving state parks to look for roughly 100 parks of the state’s 279 to close.

Along with looking for public-private partnerships to help save more state parks, the agency announced Tuesday it will be raising both day-use and camping fees.

“It will help us stretch our money, fees are only one tool,” said Roy Stearns, deputy director of communications for California State Parks.

The new day-use fees were released Thursday morning online; camping fees are expected Monday. To see a complete list of new day use and camping fees, go to http://www.parks.ca.gov, click “visit a park” then “Reservations & Fees.”

Day-use parking fees will go up between $2 and $5 on top of current fees that run from $4 to $14, and camping would go up by $10 to $21 per night, on top of existing $20 to $44 fees, Stearns said.

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“This generates about $200,000 between now and the end of the year … of the $14.2 million being taken,” Stearns said. “That saves maybe one, maybe two parks.”

But raising fees risks reducing attendance at state parks, Stearns said.

The biggest price hikes will be at the parks that get the most attendance, where the increases are less likely to turn people away, Stearns said.

He characterized Truckee/Tahoe parks as mid-range in visitorship.

In 2008, D.L. Bliss had 670,822 visitors, Sugar Pine had 95,762, Emerald Bay had 158,931 and Donner Memorial had 176,280, Stearns said.

“Some parks in the state get 1, 2, 3 million and more,” Stearns said.

Carol Chaplin, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority executive director, said even with the fee increase, it’s still a bargain for a family to visit Emerald Bay.

“The fee increase is not unreasonable to have the parks stay open,” Chaplin said.

Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, said he didn’t think the price increases will hurt Tahoe too much.

“I can’t see it affecting visitors significantly; people are already flocking to state parks because of their value,” Teshara said.

He said the fee increases don’t come as a surprise, but he still hopes for a more holistic approach to saving state parks, like the previously suggested hike in the vehicle licensing fee.

“It’s irritating that they are doing this rather than a more comprehensive effort; they are avoiding taking on the bigger and more appropriate challenge,” Teshara said.

Annual state park passes will go back on sale at the current price of $125, according to a state parks press release.

– Tribune staff writer Sara Thompson contributed to this report.