The state park system contains nearly 280 parks, serves about 70 million visitors each year, and costs over $400 million a year to operate. These costs are mainly supported by the state General Fund and revenue generated by the parks, including roughly $100 million in fees paid by park users for day use, camping, and special events. In reviewing current fee-setting policies and procedures we find that the current lack of a statewide policy framework and standard process can lead to disparities in fees, infrequent reviews of fees, and inconsistent opportunities for public input. Our recommendations for improving how state park fees are determined and collected include (1) establishing a legislative fee policy that specifies the share of operational costs that should be borne by park users versus the General Fund (or alternative funding sources), (2) directing the State Parks and Recreation Commission to develop and regularly update fee guidelines to be implemented by state park districts in order to provide greater consistency throughout the state, and (3) specifying a fee-setting process that would be consistent statewide and provide greater opportunity for public input.
John Stewart Editor, OutdoorWire.com Resources Consultant, California Four Wheel Drive Association Board of Directors, BlueRibbon Coalition
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