IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Higher fees: Lesser of two evils

/ Source: Santa Maria Times

With camping and day-use fees set to increase Monday, a number of visitors Saturday at California state parks on the Central Coast said they are willing to pay the extra money if it means keeping the sites open.

The fees are rising to help offset recent budget reductions and keep more state parks open, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Starting Monday, camping fees will increase by $10, to $21 a night, and day-use parking fees will go up to $5, a boost of $2. Camping reservations made before Monday will be honored at the lower price.

State parks users expressed some disappointment at the fee hike, but generally, were accepting of the higher prices.

"I don't mind as long as you know it's being used to keep everything open," said Vandenberg Village resident Natalie Morris, who was watching her son, 4-year-old Malakai, feed a goat a stalk of celery at La Purisma Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc.

An employee at the park said entrance fees are set to increase Monday from $4 to $6 for general admission and from $3 to $4 for seniors.

Employees at both Pismo State Beach campgrounds - Oceano Campground and the North Beach Campground - said they were unaware of any admission changes to come.

Annual passes will go back on sale for state parks at the current price of $125, but additional fee and pass increases are possible in the coming months, the Department of Parks and Recreation said.

Information regarding which parks will have fee adjustments will be released when the changes go into effect at those sites, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Higher fees will be charged where demand is greatest, officials added.

Simi Valley resident Virgil Parr, who was strolling La Purisma Mission with his wife, said he thinks fees should increase even more to maintain park facilities.

"It's got to come from someplace," he said.

Vernice McNutt was visiting La Purisma Mission from the Pasadena area along with her husband and children.

"This is a treasure," she noted of the mission.

She said she was taking pictures because she was afraid the mission would close.

McNutt added she thinks the park fees go to a good cause, but some people can't afford to pay the prices required.

At Oceano Campground, Fresno resident Mitch Jimenez was tent camping with his extended family.

The Jimenez family has been coming to the campground for 10 years.

Jimenez said that with people running into troubles at work, such as furloughs, it was not a surprise that the state parks would come into hard times, as well, and raise fees.

"I'd rather have the increase than the closures," he said.

Other campers at Oceano Campground were displeased with the price hikes.

"We're not happy about it, but we don't want the parks to close, either," said Donna Britton of Dana Point, who was recreational vehicle camping with her husband, children and grandchildren.

She said they will probably keep camping at state parks.

Donna Britton's husband, Sam Britton, said he doesn't want the parks to sacrifice quality, and that closing them would be "stupid."

The parks have to be available to younger generations, he added.

Al and Beverly Horn from Madera, who were camping in their trailer with their grandchildren at Oceano Campground, said that as retirees on a fixed income, they could be forced to stop camping because of the price jump.

"It will definitely affect us," Al Horn said of the hike.

He said that the state parks waste a lot of money, and that even the bathrooms at the campground are "overkill" in their elaborate construction.

"When I look at that, I see a lot of waste," Horn said, referring to a nearby bathroom. "We can do without the fanciness."

August 16, 2009