Oregon State Parks Install Incremental Fee Hikes
Oregon state park fees for camping and day use will take a relatively big jump next year, but future increases are likely to be more incremental.
It's the system's first fee increase in 13 years, according to The Oregonian, Portland.
The desire for smaller but more frequent increases came out of the public input process that resulted, in late September, in a $4-a-night camping increase for RVers and $3-a-night increase for tenters.
For parks that charge day-use fees, the price per vehicle will rise next year from $3 to $5.
"The public made it abundantly clear that more frequent increases in smaller increments is the way we need to go. And we will," said Chris Havel, Oregon State Parks and Recreation spokesman.
If only it wasn't so complicated for a state agency to raise fees.
State parks can't just tack on 50 cents or a dollar because other similar campground systems raise their prices.
As a state agency, the park system must submit its two-year budget with the proposed fee increase to the Legislature. If the budget passes the Legislature with the rate increase, a public process follows before the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission votes to adopt the increase.
It's a two-year process from start to end.
State parks will more closely analyze the need for fee increases in the future, each time it submits its two-year budget to the Legislature, according to Havel.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department was facing a $4 million shortfall because of a decline in other revenue sources (primarily a share of Oregon Lottery profits and part of the registration fee for recreational vehicles).
The increase will basically keep the two-year budget flat, according to Havel.
Of the 2,000 people who weighed in during the fee-increase process, about 68% were in favor of the increase.
"They recognize the value they get, compared to other park systems, and know the money doesn't go away," Havel said. "It goes right back into the system."
Some of those against the fee increase suggested raising revenue by charging more for premium campsites, more to out-of-state residents and more for certain days of the season, especially summer holidays.
Havel said the park system had tried some of those approaches in the past and found the minimal amount of additional money raised wasn't worth the aggravation, both to park managers and visitors.
Something that may be tried in the future, he said, is to lower the midweek rate to draw more visitors to the parks on less busy days. State parks already has a Discovery Season, from Oct. 1 to April 30, when camping rates are $4 lower a night than during peak season.
Nightly camping fees in state parks during peak season will increase next year to between $20 to $24 for RV hookups and $17 to $19 for tents.
By comparison, state park campsites in California have nightly rates of $35 to $65 for RVs and $15 to $35 for tents. In Washington, it's $25 to $33 for RVs and $19 to $24 for tents. Idaho's nightly fees range from $9 to $22.
The Washington Legislature this year patched a hole in its state parks budget by placing a $5 opt-out fee on each vehicle registration. The fee for parks is added to the cost of registration, unless the owner declines to pay it by checking a box. September's first month collection brought in $1.4 million, $200,000 more than anticipated.
Oregon's state park price increases will take effect Jan. 1 for day use and May 1 for camping, though campers with reservations made before Oct. 1 will continue to pay the lower rate.
The nightly rental for a basic cabin will increase by $4, to $39 and for a basic yurt by $9, to $36. Other fee increases are posted on the www.oregonstateparks.org website.
Day visitors to state parks have an opportunity to lock in this year's rate by buying an annual pass now. A one-year pass, good for the 2010 calendar year, sells for $25. A two-year pass for 2010-11 goes for $40. Those prices will rise on Jan. 1 to $30 and $50.
Another change is that annual day-use passes will be transferable between vehicles. In the past, the pass was a window decal; now it will be a card that hangs on the rear-view mirror.