Fees rise next year in state's 121 parks, recreation areas

Posted: Tuesday, December 09, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Beginning next year, fees to use Alaska's state parks and recreation areas will be going up again.

The higher fees - expected to raise about $1 million - include charges for parking, camping and some commercial use permits. The state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation needs the money, said Pete Panarese, the division's chief of field operations.

"The moves we have to make in state parks will help out budgetwise," Panarese said. "We're trying to hold to the standard of keeping all state parks open."

The increased fees will not give the division more money to manage and maintain the 121 Alaska state parks and recreation areas, Panarese said. Instead, the added fee collections will help to offset anticipated cuts in the parks operating budget for next fiscal year.

"The governor's budget hasn't been released yet, but I have a feeling state parks will take a ding," Panarese said.

Gov. Frank Murkowski hasn't signed off yet on budget proposals for fiscal year 2005, said his spokesman, John Manly.

Panarese said the agency will raise the cost of its annual parking pass from $30 to $40 and begin to collect a $5 daily parking fee for recreational visits to McHugh Creek and Bird Point in Chugach State Park and some other sites in the state where parking is now free.

It also will charge more for overnight camping at some state campgrounds and raise fees for some permits for commercial tour operators who take clients into state parks.

The most significant moneymaking step the division is taking is to discontinue its annual campground pass, a $100 ticket for Alaska residents to stay overnight at any state-operated campground, Panarese said.

The $200 version of the camping pass, for local RV-rental companies, also is being eliminated. A nonresident pass was discontinued several years ago.

Without the pass, the cost of a single overnight stay at an Alaska state campground ranges from $5 to $15 a night, depending on the campground, according to the division's online fee schedule.

Next year, that figure will be $15 for each of the 2,000 campsites operated by the Division of Parks, according to Panarese.

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