Nature's beauty will cost you
Early Monday afternoon, Paul Goss and his family were ready to cool off on the banks of the American River.
Goss, of Roseville, and his new bride have been coming to the American River confluence area to swim since they were kids. Now they bring their children and friends there for a day of relaxation at a low cost.
“It’s probably the best place to get into the crystal clear water around here and it’s free,” Goss said.
But the “free” aspect of Goss’s favorite swimming spot won’t last for much longer. On Friday, the Gold Fields District of California State Parks announced fee increases at Auburn and Folsom Lake state recreation areas.
The fee increases take effect July 1.
“We don’t all make a lot of money. We’re a middle class, working family and it’s not easy to make it anyway with all the taxes that are on us,” Goss said.
Even on Monday, pay stations were being erected around the confluence area so the day-use parking fee can be enforced. While it is currently free to park in that area, those using the area for recreation purposes after July 1 will have to pay $10 per day to park there.
Along with the day-use parking fee in the confluence area, recreational users will also see a $2 increase in boat launching fees and a $3 increase in camping fees. For example, boat launching at Upper Lake Clementine is currently $8 per launch, but as of July 1 that will be upped to $10.
Matt Green, Gold Fields District superintendent, said the increases are part of a managing partnering agreement between State Parks and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which will provide maintenance and sustainability efforts in both parks.
“It’s the only one of its kind in our state and it enables our fees to stay within the two units so that they are more sustainable and more protected during a time when fiscally we’re not doing so great as a state,” Green said.
At Folsom Lake, fees will be collected at the entrance stations to parking lots, but in Auburn collecting the fees is a little more complicated.
Green says that the “iron ranger methodology” will be used to collect fees where no entrance station is employed. That means patrons will be required to place their payment in an envelope within designated boxes near parking areas. Part of the envelope is then ripped off and placed on the user’s dash to indicate payment.
Mike Lynch, sector supervisor in charge of the Auburn State Recreation Area, said there will be a 30-day “education period” where state parks employees will be around to remind visitors of the new fees.
Eventually, anyone who does not pay will be subjected to citation, which can range from $60 to $75.
“Of course we hope that doesn’t happen and understand that it’s difficult to charge these fees in difficult economic times, but citations will be issued,” Green said.
Bogdan Ambrozewicz, an Auburn area small business owner, feels that the fee increases are unnecessary in an area where the community is willing to maintain the parks it enjoys.
Since hearing of the fee increases, Ambrozewicz has been circulating a petition against them, which has generated around 200 signatures so far. He feels day-use fees, particularly at the American River confluence area, will deter tourism, as well as local use of the Auburn State Recreation Area.
“I’ve been in this area for 30 years and helped maintain these trails. I’m trying to promote a healthy lifestyle and this does anything but that,” Ambrozewicz said.
Placer County District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes signed Ambrozewicz’s petition and said he’s worried the day-use fee will hinder some out-of-town visitors from using the confluence area.
But Angeles and Michael Caliso, who were enjoying the confluence area Monday afternoon, say since the fees are going toward taking care of the parks, they’ll still come up from Sacramento with their Siberian Huskies, Maximus and Luna.
“If we’re getting something out of it, then it makes sense,” Angeles Caliso said.
Green added that users who frequent the parks can purchase a Golden Poppy Annual Vehicle Day Use Pass for $125. The pass can be used at almost 100 other state parks, but if it is purchased at Folsom Lake or Auburn State Recreation Areas, that money goes toward operating those parks.
Those passes can now be purchased at the Placer County Welcome Center and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce.
In the meantime, regulars at the American River confluence enjoy their favorite spot for a few more days without paying to park. Jerry Neely, of Auburn, said he and his dog, Aspen, might have to go somewhere else. He also hopes the fees don’t drive people away to more dangerous parts of the river.
“I thought this was going to be the last best-kept secret of the area,” Neely said.
Current fees/new prices effective July 1
Boat Launching Upper Lake Clementine, Current: $8 per boat launch, New: $10 per boat launch
Camping Lower Lake Clementine Boat-in Camping (primitive), Current: $35 per night, New: $38 per night
Mineral Bar Campground (primitive) and Ruck-a-Chucky Campground (primitive), Current: $25 per night, New: $28 per night
Yankee Jim’s Parking, Grizzly Bear Parking, Confluence Long Point Trail Parking, Current: $0, New: $10 per vehicle
Folsom Lake or Lake Natoma Power Boat Launch Fee (all locations), Current: $8 per boat launch, New: $10 per boat launch
Day-use parking at Willow Creek, Powerhouse, Old Salmon Falls, Current: $5 per vehicle, New: $10 per vehicle
Day-use parking at Rattlesnake Bar, Granite Bay, Beals Point, Folsom Point, Brown’s Ravine, Peninsula, Current: $10 per vehicle, New: $12 per vehicle
Beals Point Campground (developed), Current: $30 (peak) per night or $25 (non-peak) per night, New: $33 (peak) per night, $28 (non-peak) per night
Beals Point RV Campground (developed), Current: $55 (peak) per night, $45 (non-peak) per night, New: $58 (peak) per night, $48 (non-peak) per night
Beals Point RV & Tent Campground Extra Vehicle Fee, Current: $10 per vehicle, New: $12 per vehicle
Beals Point Dump Station Fee (non-registered), Current: $10 per vehicle, New: $12 per vehicle