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Old 09-25-2012, 05:58 PM   #1
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We need a camper's union

I spent some time in the Eastern Sierra just this month (9/2012), and used local and federal facilities, just about every kind (USFS, BLM, NPS, Nat'l Monument). What surprised, and annoyed, me was the fees.

Take a sec and think which facilities would cost the most. I'll wait.

OK: cheapest is NPS. Tuolumne Meadows campground is $10. Nat'l Monument (Devil's Postpile) is $14. Most USFS sites were $17 to $21, although some free still (more later). BLM free, or low fee. Boondocking everywhere was free.

The fees bore no relation to quality. Yosemite is pretty awesome, but why is a flush toilet campground like Tuolumne cheaper than a ratty pit toilet USFS campground? I admit that Ellery Lake is more scenic, and a better campground, so I'll give you that one. But not the ones further down in the canyon on Tioga road, or in Mammoth.

And don't get me started on the state of CA.

I also stayed at Glass Creek in Mammoth. It's a campground that is progressing from a totally informal dry camp to a managed formal campground. The USFS has added spaces by sticking posts in the ground and laying old guardrail around, and the same vintage 50's outhouses are there. Still no trash and no water, and now donation-only. But soon to be fee-based. If the USFS adds certain amenties then they can begin using it as a cash cow. Lots of retired and low income folks use it, sort of like the long term areas down south. Soon they'll have to pay. It may not be much, but some of them don't have much to begin with. And they're having a negligible impact on this free land.

I like the idea of having more camping around, but I get suspicious when formally free areas are monetized for no other reason than raising revenue. And especially when I fear that boondocking may become more restricted. Maybe Iím paranoid.

I also noticed that in many campgrounds the campground hosts were gone. I've found they were a very positive influence in many places, although they could be rather priggish. The rumor was that the USFS in Inyo, at least, had foisted more work on them, like cleaning toilets. I couldn't verify this, but WT-heck??

And the escalation of campground fees is way above inflation. I can afford it, but lots of other folks are rather hard hit by it, especially when you add in the obnoxious fees outfits like reserveamerica.com add on for their rather useless service. And meanwhile, at least in CA, the quality of the sites goes down. I was really impressed with Utah's campgrounds, however. So maybe that's a state-by-state thing.

Every user tribe in outdoor rec has an advocacy group, from Sierra Clubbers to OHVers. And they fight for access for themselves (and often restrictions on the others), but not for the things they share and have in common...like decent campgrounds. Someone crashing in their Subaru at the trailhead before a one week backpack may be doing something completely different than the couple in their class A coach in Quartzite, but they share an interest in having a place to stay in our public lands. And I just think it's about time we had a coalition of some sort to advocate for our needs, and to force the land managers to take those needs into account. I see every other use of lands get far more attention than just boring old camping, and I wish that would change.

Sorry for the rant.
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Old 09-25-2012, 07:22 PM   #2
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Re: We need a camper's union

Anyone that gets put in charge will require a fee for themselves=the cost will go up and more restrictive rules and regulations will be put in place and you still will have dirty toilets.
Be carefull what you ask for, the powers to be will hear one thing and give you something you didn't ask for.
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Old 09-25-2012, 09:50 PM   #3
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We need a camper's union

If you are over 62 you can get a lifetime reduced fee pass that covers all of federal parks and recreation. Fees are reduced to zero or half depending on where you are. Not valid for state facilities.
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Old 09-25-2012, 11:41 PM   #4
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Re: We need a camper's union

Many states have reduced passes for seniors and veterans for their camping facilities. Some, like Alaska are restricted to eligible residents of the state.

Most of the AK State campgrounds have limited amenities and are not getting enough maintenance attention and investment compared to the federal and borough operated campgrounds. This is in a state with $38 billion in reserves...

Regarding campground fees, though not evenly matched to amenities, its still usually cheaper than 2 tickets to a first run movie...and way more fun.
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Old 09-26-2012, 08:59 AM   #5
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Re: We need a camper's union

We've noticed similar changes in the PNW. The trend seems to be to close smaller or more remote campgrounds and charge fees at the few that are left. I think that nationwide, camping and other use of the national forests is down. The managers are just trying to be cost effective, not having to maintain a bunch of small sites. Plus as was mentioned, the smaller, free, un-supervised sites tend to get trashed and need even more maintenance.

Many of the campgrounds in the PNW are now operated by a contractor. The "campground hosts" are paid employees and they work all day. My ideal retirement job isn't looking as good...
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Old 09-26-2012, 11:02 AM   #6
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Re: We need a camper's union

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhally
We've noticed similar changes in the PNW. The trend seems to be to close smaller or more remote campgrounds and charge fees at the few that are left. I think that nationwide, camping and other use of the national forests is down. The managers are just trying to be cost effective, not having to maintain a bunch of small sites. Plus as was mentioned, the smaller, free, un-supervised sites tend to get trashed and need even more maintenance.

Many of the campgrounds in the PNW are now operated by a contractor. The "campground hosts" are paid employees and they work all day. My ideal retirement job isn't looking as good...
Actually, the free USFS campsites I visited were in much better shape than some of the more popular $20 sites. For example, Grandview and Glass Creek vs. other USFS sites and even NPS. Less trash, less graffiti, cleaner firepits and even less noisy. The dry camps tend to be frequently by longer term and more experienced campers, I surmise, and hence they get treated better.

The USFS wants money. I've been using some of these free sites for decades and the maintenance is really minimal. The problem with the efficiency argument is that from the land manager's point of view the most efficient thing to do is to exclude us from everywhere. Users just annoy them.
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