Oregon State Parks Imposes New Fee On Out-Of-State Campers to Discourage Travel, Raise Funds

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From The Statesman Journal By Zach Urness

Camping at one of Oregon’s state parks will cost a little extra if you’re visiting from outside the state beginning on August 10.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department announced a 30 percent surcharge on nonresidents that make new camping reservations or arrive at a state park campground beginning Aug. 10.

The surcharge is aimed at encouraging local recreation and providing funding to operate Oregon’s state parks system, which was hit hard by COVID-19 shutdowns and losses from the Oregon Lottery.

“We love serving all people, no matter where they live,” said Lisa Sumption, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department director. “Even so, this temporary change is needed to remind people to stay as close to home as possible while enjoying the outdoors, and to provide much-needed support for the Oregon state park system.”

The added fee breaks down as follows:

– The average cost for a full-service RV site is currently $33 per night, but starting August 10, that will increase to an average of $42 for nonresidents.

– The average tent rate is currently $19 per night and will increase to $23 for nonresidents.

The surcharge could raise around $500,000 through the end of the year and “help hire staff and pay for cleaning supplies and other park operations,” OPRD said in a news release. The move is temporary and only stays in place through 2020, parks officials said.

The shutdown of all campgrounds and day-use sites from March to June brought a major hit in revenue for state parks that, combined with the decline in Oregon Lottery dollars that also supports parks, has meant a $22 million shortfall for OPRD.

The agency responded with cuts, layoffs and a hiring freeze that means only about half the normal amount of rangers are patrolling state parks in a year when more people than ever are flooding parks and public lands.

“There’s no modern equivalent for attempting to serve as many people as we expect with as few a people as we’ll have,” OPRD spokesman Chris Havel previously told the Statesman Journal.

Havel stressed that the new surcharge is temporary and primarily aimed at encouraging people to keep recreation local. He noted that New Mexico has closed all its state parks to out of state visitors, but Oregon isn’t going that far.

“We’re adding this as one more way for people to think about whether right now is the right time for a long-distance trip,” OPRD spokesman Chris Havel said. “If people from out of state consider that, and still want to come, it’ll cost a little extra and they’ll be supporting our state parks system.”

If Oregon wanted to continue the added fee into the future, that would require a more complex process, Havel said. “For now, the focus is only on this year,” Havel said. The surcharge is similar to the extra fees most state add to fishing licenses purchased by out of state residents.


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