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Calif. Nat. Forests Juggle Fees, Services

September 26, 2007 by   - () Leave a Comment

As national forests around the country re-evaluate a dollar’s worth of recreation, two national forests in Southern California are planning some small tweaks to recreational areas.
The aim is part of a national effort to make the most of limited forest budgets. Officials hope that by closing little-used campsites and picnic areas, more money can be used to update more popular sites, according to the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise.
In California’s San Bernardino National Forest, that means four sites will be closed for recreational use unless community groups put up a fight to keep them by the Oct. 5 public-comment deadline, said Kermit Johansson, the recreation facilities analysis project manager for the San Bernardino National Forest.
“We have not heard a great deal from the public on this issue,” Johansson said. “These just aren’t sites people use very much.”
Specifically, forest officials are considering closing the Crest Park and Fuller Mill Creek picnic areas and the Tent Peg and Big Pine Equine group campgrounds.
Forest officials evaluated 92 recreational sites over the last year and found the four aren’t used often enough to justify the cost of upkeep, Johansson said.
“We’re actually in pretty good shape,” he said of the more popular facilities.
As part of the five-year recreation plan, forest officials also have proposed several improvement projects including a $1.7 million modernization and expansion of the Falls Picnic area. Forest officials also plan to convert the Crab Flats and Big Pine Flat campgrounds into staging areas for off-roading vehicles to keep up with the growing demand for off-roading amenities.
In the Cleveland National Forest, officials determined that none of the forest’s 46 recreation sites warrant closure, said Anne Carey, the forest’s recreations planner. They anticipate raising campground and picnic fees to add to the $800,000 annual budget used to maintain acres of wilderness, off-roading and recreational areas. Campers pay $10 to $15 for a campground, and that is likely to go up within the next five years, Carey said.
Forest goers have to purchase $5 a day or $30 annual Adventure Passes to be able to drive and park vehicles in the forest. The Adventure Pass fee isn’t expected to go up, said Carey.
By increasing fees, forest officials hope to be able to renovate the 42-year-old, Blue Jay campground to include modern toilets and trailer hookups, she said.
“We are pretty much a backyard forest, which means people typically come from nearby for weekend or day trips,” she added. “With the help of volunteers and specific programs, we feel we can keep all our picnic and campsites open.”

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