Our View: Repeal fee to park at Confluence

Our View
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Paying $10 to park on the side of the road shouldn’t be required to enjoy the natural habitat that surrounds Auburn.
Late last month, the Gold Fields District of California State Parks announced it will add and/or increase fees to parks in its area, including ones in Auburn.
Camping and boat launch fees were raised $2 to $3 at Upper and Lower Lake Clementine, Mineral Bar and Ruck-a-Chucky campgrounds. Users who used to park for free at Yankee Jim’s, Grizzly Bear and the Confluence will pay $10 a day.
The new fee is too prohibitive to the families and users who frequent the confluence and it should be repealed.
In addition to the fee being prohibitive, especially to lower income and working class households, it misdirects time and energy of the limited number of state park rangers assigned to the Auburn area.
Patrolling hot spots to enforce laws that protect users and responding to emergency situations should be the top priority for all rangers – not whether or not parked cars have their pay ticket displayed.
Frequent users do have the option of buying an annual pass for $125 to gain access to nearly 100 other state parks (assuming they’re open) and park and use Auburn’s recreation areas. However, if $10 is too much for many users, so is $125. In addition to that, some users have raised concern that a $125 pass displayed through the windshield invites break-ins to snatch it.
It’s understandable that in tough economic times, State Parks is looking for ways to keep the beautiful natural resources and recreation areas open and preserved.
The reason for the fee and increase is part of a managing partner agreement with State Parks and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide maintenance and sustainability, according to Matt Green, the Gold Fields District superintendent.
The 25-year agreement between state parks and the bureau was lauded when it was signed in February.
The Feb. 22 Journal story “State Parks, Reclamation ink Auburn State Recreation Area partnership pact” stated that the “bureau will provide federal appropriations ‘as available’ for half of any operational deficit up to a ceiling of $2.5 million annually.
“In a sign of goodwill, the state and federal agencies are pledging to continue to work together to minimize or eliminate deficits through continuous collaboration and efficient business planning.”
So is a $10 fee the best collaboration and business planning these two large agencies could come up with?
What it feels like is more money to feed two bureaucracies and less free public spaces for those who enjoy them most.
“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,” said Paul Goss, a Roseville resident. Goss said he and his family consider the confluence “the best place” to enjoy crystal clear water for no cost.
It’s a sad day when a once free public open space for all to enjoy becomes exclusionary.
Auburn business owners have also expressed concern that it will deter recreation riders from returning.
To charge users $10 to park on the side of the road on a dirt pullout by the confluence is the wrong place to make up for a deficit. What will Confluence users get in return? Paved parking? Better security? Or just a ranger passing through in time to catch those who didn’t pay their $10?
The agreement between the bureau and State Parks requires that revenue from recreation and other operations goes directly to management of the areas.
Let’s hope that plays true.
In a May 1 Journal story, Auburn State Recreation Area Supervising Ranger Mike Lynch said fees could be possible in any area where they patrol, pick up trash, maintain restrooms and more.
There are no restrooms at the Confluence and volunteers organize a mass clean up effort every year at the Confluence.
Taxpayers in this state pay enough as it is. To charge an extra $10 to park by an open river is a visible reminder that more is being taken away from both pocketbooks and services.