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Governor: Now Not the Time to Raise Camping Fees

August 5, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Gov. Mike Beebe has asked Arkansas parks officials to halt a planned 10% increase in fees for lodging and campsites, and the state’s parks and tourism director said the panel that had backed the hike will likely agree.

Beebe said he did not believe now was the time to raise fees, citing the nation’s economy, the Associated Press reported.

“We want to do all we can to encourage Arkansans to stay home and utilize these treasures, especially with a slowly recovering economy and the disrupted travel season on the Gulf Coast,” Beebe said Tuesday in a statement released by his office. “Fees must sometimes be adjusted to help fund the parks, but now is simply not the time for such an adjustment.”

The Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission had tentatively approved the hike to make up for revenue that fell because fewer people were using those services. A second vote is scheduled for Aug. 19, when the panel will listen to public comment.

Richard Davies, director of the state Department of Parks and Tourism, said he believed Beebe’s request would halt any plans for a fee increase.

“I feel certain they’ll honor the governor’s request. He’s the governor,” Davies said.

The increase was projected to generate about $1 million per year in revenue. It would affect camping fees that now range from $30 for a site with water and a 50-amp electrical hookup to $10 for camping in undeveloped “overflow areas.”

At state lodges, the cost for a room ranges from $65 for a room with a queen-size bed at Petit Jean State Park to $212 for a two-person suite at Mount Magazine State Park from March through November. Cabin rates run from $67 a night to more than $300.

If approved, the higher prices would go into effect at the first of the year.

Davies said the agency has heard a backlash from campers since the fee increase was initially approved. Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Beebe, said the governor’s office also has received calls objecting to the increase.

Davies said he did not know what the impact would be on the state parks budget, but said the fee increase would have helped with construction and renovation of existing park sites. He said the department hoped an increase in visitors would offset the halt of the planned increase.

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