Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Recreation Fees at Trailheads, Picnic Areas and Campgrounds

Initially launched as a "recreation fee demonstration project" nearly 10 years ago, public land access charges were made permanent last year under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA).

Locally, the debate over access fees continues in places such as the Giberson Bay picnic and day use area, where the agency charges $7 per day, with a season pass available for $35. The area is well maintained, with toilets kept relatively clean even on busy Saturdays and a handful of scenically-set picnic tables available.

A for-profit Texas company called Thousand Trails collects the fees. The company is the major campground concessionaire in the White River National Forest.

"The law says you can't charge just to park and hike," said Robert Funkhouser, president of the West Slope No Fee Coalition. "The Forest Service has no intention of complying with the law. In fact, they are openly ignoring the new law. They're charging for sites that don't meet the requirement of the law."

White River National Forest officials say the new law does not affect any of its fee sites; they all qualify under FLREA, according to spokeswoman Sue Froeschle.

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