The pros of raising recreation fees in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest include staffing and safety updates, while cons have the potential to decrease accessibility or spur uproar from longtime recreators.
Those complications are exactly why the Forest Service has taken a town hall approach to weighing a proposal for recreation fee increases and additions. After rangers have held talks with folks in person in Packwood and Stevenson, staff with the Gifford Pinchot hosted a virtual town hall on Facebook Live on Aug. 18.
Staff will continue to solicit public comment on the proposals through Sept. 16.
Kyung Koh Willis, Gifford Pinchot recreation program manager, presented the proposal to viewers online before fielding questions through the comment section.
“Not just this forest, but many national forests continue to see a gap in current allocation, which is the money that Congress allocates to the agency and to current revenue collected. These proposed new and increased fees will allow us, or at least assist us, in trying to close that gap and maintain sites to the level our visitors have come to expect,” she said.
According to a news release from the Forest Service, if proposed changes are implemented, about 70% of the 234 developed recreation sites would remain fee free. Currently fees are waived at all Forest Service managed day-use sites six days throughout the year.
The proposed fees by site and Ranger District are listed online at fs.usda.gov/goto/gp/fees.
In many instances, they bump access to trailheads from $0 to $5 for a vehicle. In others, free group campsites could go from $0 to $100 before additional fees for added vehicles.
The proposal would also potentially increase fees at Johnston Ridge Observatory from $8 per person ages 16 and older to $12 per person.
There are a variety of ways to submit comments for review on the proposal, including:
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