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California Parks Department Increases Annual Pass Fees

| April 12, 2012
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California’s park system is raising prices on annual day-use passes to prevent further service cuts, says state parks spokesman Roy Stearns.

On May 1 the following passes will increase:

  • Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass, from $125 to $195
  • Golden Poppy Vehicle Day Use Pass, from $90 to $125
  • Boat Use Pass (Sticker), from $75 to $100
  • Limited Use Golden Bear Pass, from $10 to $20

Although the parks department expects that some visitors will be priced out of the new passes, they project making between $1 to $1.5 million per year from the increased fees.

The Mendocino Park District sold only 21 annual passes last year. (Craig Miller/KQED)

The Mendocino Park District sold only 21 annual passes last year. (Craig Miller/KQED)

“Will park attendance go down? We don’t think so,” says Stearns. “People who normally buy a pass might stop buying the pass and just pay the day use. People who buy the pass because they go often will [still] buy the pass… [I]f you go more than 15 times a year, like boaters and surfers, you’ll buy the pass because it’s still a good deal.”

The additional revenues will not go to saving parks on the closure list but will support services like park programs and keep restrooms open, Stearns says.

“It’s a balancing act, and sometimes it’s hard to do. But everybody knows what’s happening to our budget. So we would just say to people, ‘Be patient, be understanding, we’re trying to make ends meet.’”

People bought 66,752 day-use passes last year, according to data from the state parks department. Park districts with easy coastal access sell many more passes; the Orange Coast District sold 26,883 passes last year. In Northern California, the Santa Cruz District sold 3,802 passes total, while Mendocino sold 21.

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About the Author ()

Lisa Pickoff-White is KQED's Senior Interactive News Producer. Her work has been honored with awards from the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and SXSW Interactive. Lisa specializes in visual journalism, including photography and data. Reach Lisa Pickoff-White at lpickoffwhite@kqed.org.
  • Anonymous

    Appropriate Incentives For State Parks
    The Governor’s 2012-2013 budget requests authority to continuously appropriate $15.3 million annually in fee revenues to parks, (to) incentivize districts to implement new projects that could increase the number of paying visitors. DPR would have the authority to spend up to $15.3 million of newly generated revenue in the year it is generated, instead of waiting for the Legislature to appropriate the funds the following year. But the March 2, 2012 LAO report Strategies to Maintain California’s Park System (PDF) states ”We are concerned that this proposal limits the Legislature’s authority and would not result in the stated goal of incentivizing districts to generate revenue”

    Save Our State Parks
    With over 70 million visits annually, California’s state parks are an important economic engine to the local communities in which they are located, generating over $4 billion in economic activity across the state. Every $1 invested in the state park system returns $2.35 to the state’s General Fund, largely in the form of economic activity in local economies.

    Visitor figures in Oct 2009 Increased Travel to State Parks
    California State Parks is the second largest park system in the country (second only to the national park system), and receives an average of 74 million visitors a year. The LAO report only considers paid attendance figures, steady at 25 million a year and concludes: Reduce The Size Of The Park System – Expand Concessions

    Remember just 10 years ago, in 2002, DPR reported that for every $1 spent by the general fund returns $2.34 in tax revenue. The figure represents both direct and secondary effects, from the sales and personal tax generated from visitor expenditures. The total figure of tax generated was then divided by the allocation of general fund contribution. Data from the 2007-2009 Visitor Survey Report commissioned by California DPR, showed that state parks generate considerable economic activity. Visitors spend on average $80.85 per visit, $31.32 within a 25 mile radius of the park and $49.53 outside the 25 miles radius.

    Steadfastly, the LAO cites a Lessons Learned study from Texas. According to park staff in Texas, although the program ultimately failed, key pieces were beneficial. These included incentivizing park superintendents to try new operations and programs. Texas staff believes that a different allocation of new revenue might have made a difference in the program’s success.”

    Isn’t that what Governor Brown is proposing in his $15.3M budget trailer?

    In ten years, how did we get to a situation where the Legislative Analyst Office would reject
    a plan to Authorize Continuous Appropriation to Incentivize Districts to Generate Revenues!
    Wow! $15M would go so far. Start with the Parks on the closure list. Doing some math, pick a park, like Standish Hickey, or Annadel, I’ll use Standish-Hickey for now.

    $15.3M minus $57K to help run one park, that still leaves over $14.5M for the other Parks. Last year, Standish-Hickey made $157,000 in revenues but the cost of running the park came to $204,000.

    Support is needed for North Coast Assemblymembers Jared Huffman and Wesley Chesbro, together with Senator Noreen Evans as they are push urgency Bills through the Legislature. View the 03212012 E Town Hall with Senator Noreen Evans, Caryl Hart (Director Sonoma County Regional Parks and State Parks Commissioner), along with Carolyne Cathey (Director MAPA)

    AB1589 California State Parks Stewardship Act of 2012 is ground-breaking legislation that will reform how California funds and manages its state parks,” Chesbro said. AB1589 Encourages formation of a state compact that guarantees an ongoing level of state funding for operations and maintenance of state parks. This Bill has been rapidly gaining signatures and has strong support, passing committee reviews with full support, and goes before the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation April 16th.

    AB1589 creates a State Park Enterprise Fund to be used for construction and installation of modern revenue and fee collection equipment and technologies to increase park visitation and revenues. Both California and Arizona are moving urgency Bills through respective Legislatures.

    Back on January 19th Senator Noreen Evans’ Bill SB974 caused State Public Works Board to pull a controversial parks item from its agenda and is a bill that would require the California Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) to conduct a formal review of park closures. Once the door is opened to privatization, it is hard to reverse the trend.

    May 1, 2012
    Dangerous Precedent
    California State Parks (CSP) has issued a new request for proposals (RFP) seeking a five-year concession contract (or contracts) to operate campground and day use recreational areas at five park units in the Central Valley (Turlock Lake SRA, McConnell SRA, George J. Hatfield SRA, Woodson Bridge SRA, and Brannan Island SRA). This is the first serious and robust parks PPP procurement of its kind at the state level. The RFP is here , and CSP’s sample contract is here. Bidder responses are due on May 1. This step may help give increased impetus to private operations proposals in other states. This RFP must be stopped! California’s State Park System is too important to break up and give away.

    Private Concession Operated Parks pay a penny on the dollar for ALL CARD FEES, the campsite reservation, purchases in onsite stores, food, fuel, bait, anything that is sold and a credit card is used – but particularly the campsite fees. And the State of California can’t figure out how to take the tickets and collect the fees. (Reservation and cancellation fees would supply millions annually to fund local non-profits working to keep parks open).

    Currently these fees subsidize the privatization of park management bid contracts by Reserve America, also known as Recreation dot gov, the National Recreation Resource Syndicate (NRRS), and Recreation Resource Management – parkprivatization dot com. These fees subsidize a scapegoat attitude toward Public Employees Unions as if they were the problem. People forget that corporations are the reason the State is broke. Two of these related corporations were MAXXAM and ENRON.

    This year, events in Arizona and California have been nearly identical for the first 3 months.
    California AB1589_Arizona HB2362: Two States, Two Bills To Save Parks

    http://www.azgovernor.gov/Newsroom/Gov_PR.asp
    Governor’s staff has been working with the Parks Dept and the Bills Sponsor, Rep Karen Fann developing stronger language and better solutions for fulfilling land usage agreements and financial issues. First they are proposing language that ensures monies will not be appropriated in a manner that is inconsistent with the restrictions in a deed or lease to a property. Second, they have developed language that will address another issue that was discovered recently, how the proceeds from sales by Parks can be retained in the Park’s system. The Governor looks forward to strengthening the language in the legislation. Matthew Benson, Governor Brewer’s spokesman, said the governor wants to see the bill reworked and sent back to her “as quickly as possible.”