Visitors to Kern County's parks and recreation areas may soon be paying a bit more for some of their services.
At its past few monthly meetings, the Kern County Parks and Recreation Commission has been discussing which fees to raise, eliminate or create.
"Every few years we need to take a look at the fees," said Bob Lerude, director of Kern County's Parks and Recreation Department.
The department owns approximately 4,702 acres of parkland at 48 sites. Some of its parks include Greenhorn Mountain Park, Leroy Jackson Park, Tehachapi Mountain Park, Kern River County Park, Stramler Park, Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area and Lake Woollomes.
The commission has come up with a list of five categories where fees might be increased:
* Camping fees at multiple locations including Buena Vista, Lake Ming, Greenhorn and Tehachapi.
* Group picnic area fees.
* Shelter area fees.
* Deposit fees.
* Building rental fees.
Based on public request, the commission is also considering eliminating the fee on second vehicles at Buena Vista campsites.
Creating entrance fees for Hart Memorial Park and Lake Ming is also on the table. But those will be discussed and proposed separately from the rest of the changes.
Other counties in California have recently implemented fee increases at their parks. For example, San Joaquin County raised parking fees at two of its parks by a dollar on regular days and by double on high-demand weekends, according to The Stockton Record . In August, parking will cost $6 for regular days and $10 for high-demand weekends.
In Kern County, the discussion is both routine and a result of dwindling tax revenue, Lerude said.
The last time the commission discussed raising fees was in 2008. Four years is the typical interval between each time fees are brought up, Lerude said.
At that time, there was a row over creating a rental fee for building use by nonprofits and creating a fee for boat races on Lake Ming. The building rental fee was approved by county supervisors, while the boat race fee died in the commission.
Of the latest attempt to raise fees, commissioner Bob Jamison said at Wednesday's meeting, "This is going to be as sticky or more so than before."
Since the housing market crashed, funds from property taxes have been tight, Lerude said. Property taxes are the main source of revenue for the general fund.
Traditionally, about 80 to 85 percent of the parks department's funds come from the general fund. The other 15 to 20 percent comes from fees.
"In this situation, we have a few options," Lerude said. "Raise fees, cut services or some combination of both."
On Friday, many people camping at Buena Vista said they would be willing to pay a bit more in camping fees if that will improve the grounds.
For example, Leslie Choate, 52, of Bakersfield, said she would pay $5 to $10 more for cleaner bathrooms and showers.
"My husband used them and said they were kind of nasty," she said.
But, she added, she would be upset if the fees went up for everything she had to pay for to enter Buena Vista. She had to pay separate fees for the camping trailer, the truck carrying the trailer, the boat and the dog, she said.
Upon hearing camping fees might increase, John Henderson, 47, of Santa Monica, said, "That sucks." But he added he would be okay with paying more if there were noticeable improvements.
"But most places where fees go up, you don't see any differences," he said.
Jorge Lopez, 44, of Los Angeles, expressed a bit more hesitation about any fee increases. He is an electrician for UCLA and said he goes camping to escape from budget woes there.
He would still come to Buena Vista. But the fee increase would remind him about public budget issues and make it less of a relaxing trip, he said.
"Camping is the only thing that keeps me sane," he said.
The specific fee changes will be presented at the commission's next meeting July 25. Information about when the last time they were raised and by how much will also be shared.
The commission will seek public input at that meeting, its August meeting and possibly its September meeting before voting whether to send the proposal to the Board of Supervisors. Park fees on the rise Please see PARKS / A3 PARKS: Raising fees, last discussed in 2008, due to falling tax revenue