Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

User fees to increase on some federal lands

Baldwin,. Mich. – Since the “fee use” program for use of
recreational sites on the national forest was put in place, those
using specific sites on the Huron-Manistee National Forests have
had to pay a daily or annual fee for use of specific sites and
facilities.

Not universally popular at first with recreational users,
several sports shops that had carried sales of daily and annual
access permits for the fee sites stopped selling them because of
angler complaints.

(One Baldwin fly shop owner noted that the annual permit was
sold as an “annual fee,” yet in winter the access parking sites
needed by winter steelheaders were not being plowed.)

Though acceptable to most recreational users, like any program,
some tweaking with it had to be made at certain sites to meet
increasing or decreasing use.

But in 2009, some major overhauling will be made. What this
means is that at some sites where the fee was being charged, it no
longer will be charged. On the other hand, some sites will see
increasing fee charges, made necessary because of the rising costs
to maintain the sites up to standards set by the U.S. Forest
Service.

“The (Huron-Manistee) forest operates 174 developed recreation
sites in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula,” Carol Boll said. “The sites
include campgrounds, camps for horseback riders, group camps, canoe
camps, launch sites, fishing and boating access sites, trailhead
parking for hiking and skiing trails, and other special use
sites.

“Under our mandate in the federal Lands Recreation Enhancement
Act, we may charge users a fee,” Boll said. “However, there are
certain amenities that must be present before we can charge a fee
for using the site.”

These include vault toilets, safe water, picnic tables in some
campgrounds that are handicap-accessible, trash removal, site
landscaping, removal of fallen limbs and diseased and dying trees
that pose a danger, and adequate parking.

Since some sites lacked these, they have been removed from the
“fee-for-use” requirement. Examples are some trailhead parking
areas on the North Country Trail. With no vault toilet or water,
and limited parking for hikers’ cars, they didn’t meet the minimum
amenities required to charge a fee, so they were removed from the
fee list.

To get other sites up to standard and eligible for charging a
fee, some major improvements needed to be made.

Vault toilets are a big-ticket item when replacement is needed.
A vault toilet costs $15,000 to replace. Many are old and in need
of replacement, including a number that were vandalized beyond
repair. Each of these vault toilets needed furnished supplies such
as toilet paper, cleaning supplies for maintenance, costs of site
trash pickup, and grounds, tree and brush cleanup, plus picnic
table repairs arising from vandalism.

All of this costs considerable money, officials say.

“Of the 174 developed sites, 28 are operated by concessionaires
– 14 on the Manistee and 14 on the Huron forests,” Boll said.
“Paying fees for use will be required at 66 sites. We will be
raising the daily use fee for these sites in 2009. The daily use
fee in 2008 was $3 – it will go up to $5. The overnight camping fee
goes from $3 to $10 daily, and other special fee areas go from $10
to $13, and $12 to $15.”

The annual access fee also will rise, from $10 to $30.

Adults over 62 may purchase a lifetime “Golden Age – American
the Beautiful Pass” for a one-time charge of $10. These passes are
good for all federal lands where a daily access fee is charged,
including national parks and lakeshores, and BML and national
wildlife refuge lands where access fees are charged. In addition,
holders of the Golden Age pass will get 50 percent off at
concessionaire campgrounds.

“In all, fewer sites will be under the fee access program in
2009,” Boll said.

These increases in fees may bring the daily user costs closer in
line to what private operators charge, though federal law prevents
the Forest Service from undercutting private business.

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