Oregon proposes increase in state park fees

Oregon State Parks sign

SALEM, Ore. - For the first time in 13 years, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is proposing to raise state park camping and day-use fees. Public comment on the proposal is open starting today through Sept. 23.

In 1996, state park visitors provided nearly three-quarters of the funds needed to keep state park campgrounds and day-use areas operating. As costs have increased, the visitor's share has slipped year after year, and recreational vehicle registrations and the Oregon Lottery have filled in the gap. Today, visitors account for slightly more than half of the funds needed to operate state parks.

To fund ongoing park operations, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is proposing raising the day-use fee from $3 to $5 a day per vehicle, and raising camping fees $4 a night per site (from $16 to $20 now to $20 to $24). The increase would be charged starting January 2010.

Other camping accommodations also would increase. According to a Parks Department press release, comparable private and public campsites outside the state park system fetch $30 or more.

Under the new rules, the 12-month and 24-month day-use passes would be transferable to different vehicles for the first time. In the past, visitors needed to purchase a separate pass for each of their vehicles.

"The state park visitor is the heart and soul of the state park system," says Tim Wood, Director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. "Visitor revenue is invested right back into the park system to provide quality camping, trails and fun nature and history programs."

Oregon's state parks attract 2.3 million campers and 42 million day-visitors each year, consistently ranking in the nation's top 10 state park systems.

"We work hard to operate efficiently and keep our costs down," said John Potter, assistant director for operations. "State parks remain one of the most affordable, quality ways to enjoy an outdoors vacation close to home."

Public comment on the proposed change must be received no later than 5 p.m., Sept. 23, and can be made in four ways:

1) Attend a public hearing.
     a. Sept. 17: LaGrande, City Library, 2006 Fourth St., Colleen F. Johnson Community Room, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
     b. Sept 18: Bend, Parks and Recreation District Meeting Room, 799 S.W. Columbia Street, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
     c. Sept. 21: Champoeg State Heritage Area Visitor Center, 8239 Champoeg Road NE, St. Paul, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
     d. Sept. 22: Newport, Central Lincoln Public Utility, 2129 N. Coast Highway, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

2) Email: res.nw@state.or.us

3) Write a letter:
     Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
     ATTN: Park Rates
     725 Summer St NE
     Salem, OR  97301

A link to the complete text of the proposed rule change is online at http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/fee_increase.shtml.