Oregon state parks are hiking prices on campers who arrive from other states.
Oregon Parks and Recreation announced it is adding a nonresident surcharge to overnight reservations and first-come, first-served camping fees at all its facilities starting Monday, Aug. 10. People with existing bookings will not need to pay the new fee.
The surcharge could increase the price of camping in a state park by up to 30%. That means the average tent rate would go from $19 to $23 a night for those who do not live in the state. The average RV site would jump from $33 per night to $42.
Those rates will remain in place through the end of 2020. A decision about keeping the surcharge through the following year is set to be made this fall.
Oregon Parks and Recreation says the fee will help provide funding to simply maintain the vast network of parks it oversees. Once the COVID-19 lockdowns went into place last spring, the department immediately lost access to its two principal revenue streams: user fees and lottery money, since parks were closed along with bars and restaurants that host gaming. That led to a $22 million budget shortfall, 47 layoffs and more than 300 seasonal staff positions left unfilled this summer. By the end of the year, the surcharge could generate up to a desperately needed $500,000, which would go toward new hires, cleaning supplies and other park operations.
The surcharge is also meant to help keep recreation as local as possible, since the pandemic has shown no signs of slowing in the U.S.
It comes amid discussions by Gov. Kate Brown with lawmakers about creating travel restrictions, as The Oregonian reported this week. She has yet to specify what those constraints might look like, but they could include a mandatory quarantine for visitors from certain hot-spot states—which pretty much rules out camping.
"We love serving all people, no matter where they live," said Lisa Sumption, Oregon Parks and Recreation director, in a press release. "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."