The California Parks Department, staggered by the state’s budget problems and trying to avoid closing dozens of parks, announced Tuesday it would raise entrance and camping fees to their highest levels in history, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Some fees will more than double at California’s 277 state parks, which range from redwood forests to “Baywatch” beaches, desert ghost towns to mountain ranges, and battlefields to Lake Tahoe shorelines.
Getting into Hearst Castle, for example, will jump from $12 to $25. Entrance fees at many Bay Area parks, including Big Basin Redwoods, Half Moon Bay State Beach, Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais, will increase 50 percent to about $6 per car, and possibly by a few dollars more than that on holiday weekends.
The biggest shocks to some outdoor lovers will come along the sunny Southern California beaches that receive millions of visitors each year. The price of a visit to Huntington State Beach in Orange County, for example, will increase from $5 to $12 per car and up to $14 on busy weekends.
Aides to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had described himself as an environmentalist and lover of the outdoors during the state’s recent recall election, on Tuesday described the fee increases, which take effect July 1, as unavoidable. And the hikes, officials maintain, should negate the need to close any parks as the state struggles to eliminate its $14 billion budget shortfall.
“After repeated budget reductions, we have reached the point where there is no other choice,” parks Director Ruth Coleman said. “This is a reasonable solution to help get the state through hard budget times. The plan keeps the system open and operating while also keeping it as affordable as possible for all Californians.”