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ASHEVILLE, N.C., Jan. 29, 2013 - Recreation managers at the U.S. Forest Service want to make visitors aware of a proposal to increase fees or adopt a new fee at seven recreation sites within the national forests in North Carolina. Comments can be sent to email@example.com through Feb. 28, 2013. If adopted, the fee changes would be implemented in two phases over a two-year period.
Croatan National Forest
Cedar Point Campground - Rental fees would increase from $12 to $20 for single campsites per night, and the electrical surcharge would increase from $5 to $7. Campsite fees have not increased in 15 years, while operation and maintenance costs have risen.
Uwharrie National Forest
Arrowhead Campground - Rental fees for single campsites would increase from $12 to $18 per night and from $24 to $36 at double sites. The electrical surcharge would increase from $3 to $7 per night. High visitation has increased maintenance costs. Additional revenue will help pay for the costs of campground hosts, as well as maintaining and operating water, sewage and other facilities.
Canebrake Horse Camp - Rental fees for single and double campsites would be the same as the Arrowhead Campground. All sites have electrical hookups; the electrical surcharge would increase from $0 to $7. High visitation has increased maintenance costs. Additional revenue will help pay for the costs of campground hosts, as well as maintaining and operating water, sewage and other facilities.
Pisgah National Forest
Sliding Rock Recreation Area - Daily fee would increase from $1 to $2. Annual passes would remain at $25. Additional revenue is required to operate this extremely popular site, which often receives 1,000 or more people a day. Fee revenue will provide expanded hours for lifeguards and pay for the maintenance of a highly used site.
Nantahala National Forest - The fee increases would standardize rates across the three shooting ranges. The fees are needed to address the maintenance needs and costs associated with increased visitation.
Dirty John Shooting Range - Daily fee would increase from $3 per vehicle to $3 per person. Annual fee would increase from $7 per vehicle to $25 per person.
Moss Knob Shooting Range - Daily fee would increase from $0 to $3 per person. Annual fee would increase from $0 to $25 per person. This is the only new fee across the four national forests.
Panther Top Shooting Range - Daily fee would increase from $2 to $3 per person. Annual fee would remain the same at $25 per person.
Purchasing the annual pass will allow shooters to use all three ranges in Nantahala National Forest.
The Forest Service has made numerous improvements to many of the above-mentioned sites. While fixed costs have increased, recreation fees have remained static for a number of years. The fee increases would both be consistent with inflationary costs as well as ensure that fees are more comparable to similar public and private sites in their respective areas.
In recent years, the National Forests in North Carolina sought public comment and informed local leaders about the proposed increases. Public outreach efforts included:
Notices on recreation site information boards and at ranger district offices;
Legal notices included in numerous newspapers and on the agency's website;
Notices in the Federal Register;
Meetings with a wide variety of local and federal leaders and officials; and
Comment cards received from campers.
All fee change proposals will be presented before a citizen's advisory committee, called the Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee (RRAC). Committee members represent a broad array of recreation interests to help ensure that the Forest Service is proposing reasonable and publicly acceptable fee changes. Committee members will help ensure that the Forest Service addresses public issues and concerns about recreation fees. The public is welcome to attend and comment at all advisory committee meetings. The next RRAC meeting is expected to be held in spring 2013. The exact meeting time, location and agenda will be announced on http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/. If approved, the Forest Service will implement the fee changes later in 2013.
In 2004, Congress passed the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which allows the Forest Service to keep 95 percent of fees collected at certain recreation sites and use these funds locally to operate, maintain and improve the sites.
Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org through February 28. For additional information about any of these fee change proposals, please contact Delce Dyer, recreation program manager, at 828-257-4256. The Croatan, Uwharrie, Pisgah, and Nantahala national forests in North Carolina offer more than 170 developed recreation sites.