The tables, trails and fire rings are improving at the more rustic campgrounds in the Stanislaus National Forest, in eastern California but prices to camp at those sites are rising, too, according to the Stockton (Calif.) Record.
Forest officials say they plan by this summer to increase camping fees at a dozen campgrounds including popular high-altitude sites like Highland Lakes and Mosquito Lakes off of Highway 4, and stream-oriented grounds like Cascade Creek and Fence Creek along Highway 108.
The new fees will be as high as $20 per night at Wa Ka Luu Hep Yoo campground on Boards Crossing Road on the North Fork Stanislaus River. That site has hot showers, drinking water, garbage collection, an amphitheater and other amenities. Right now, the Wa Ka Luu Hep Yoo fee is $16 per night.
Nightly fees will be as low as $8 at sites such as Cascade Creek where campers must provide their own drinking water. Such sites without drinking water now cost $5.
Stanislaus officials announced two years ago that they wanted to increase the fees and use the extra money to better maintain facilities. Right now, all the revenue from camping fees goes to the federal government and the forest can’t keep it for local purposes.
But those fee increases never happened because of a missed deadline in the bureaucratic process for getting them approved, said Brian Kermeen, a recreation planner for the Stanislaus Forest.
This time, Kermeen said, the paperwork is done and Stanislaus awaits only a regional approval that could come as early as June. And now the proposal covers fewer sites.
Undeveloped camping sites at Union and Utica reservoirs off of Highway 4, for example, had been proposed for new fees and improvements in 2008. Now, Kermeen said, those sites won’t become paid sites until at least next year after forest crews make improvements and install facilities there.
There are now 45 fee campgrounds within the Stanislaus Forest, and 33 of them are run by private concessionaires. The concessionaire-run campgrounds generally have more amenities such as showers, trailer sites, dump stations or boat ramps, and also charge higher fees. The forest’s highest-use sites such as campgrounds at Lake Alpine and Pinecrest are run by concessionaires.
The proposed fee increases for this summer are for the more-rustic campgrounds operated directly by the forest. Kermeen said his goal is to continue to have the forest sites be relatively economical options when compared with more elaborate campgrounds such as those at state parks.
“I was just looking at Big Trees for comparison, and they charge $35,” Kermeen said, referring to Calaveras Big Trees State Park on Highway 4 above Arnold.
Meanwhile, Stanislaus Forest spokesman Jerry Snyder said the forest has received $915,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to make improvements to campgrounds. This summer, crews will replace tables, repave roads, install new fire rings and make other improvements.
Snyder said campers should expect brief closures of sites and should check with local ranger districts to confirm a particular camp site is open.