Suggested day-use and overnight fees for a new permitting system scheduled to be set in place next summer along certain trailheads in the Central Cascades have been announced, along with a public comment period starting Wednesday.
Day-use permits on 19 trailheads in the Central Cascades are planned to cost $3 per person while overnight permit fees of $5 per person per night are proposed for 79 trailheads, according to a release from the U.S. Forest Service.
Officials at the Deschutes and Willamette national forests have been studying a variety of methods to reduce the number of hikers on certain trails in the Cascades in order to protect them from overuse. The trail permit system is expected to reduce trail widening, loss of meadow vegetation, tree damage, litter and human waste. Trail use in Central Oregon has more than doubled in the past five years amid strong population growth in Bend and surrounding communities.
In response to the growing numbers of hikers, the Forest Service decided last spring to apply a limited entry system. As part of the limited entry system within the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness areas, the Forest Service is seeking authorization to charge a special permit fee.
While the fees would only apply to people 13 and older, everyone requires a limited entry reservation regardless of age. The special recreation permit fees will only be required from the Friday before Memorial Day to the last Friday in September in the three wilderness areas.
Popular trails requiring day-use and overnight permits will include Devils Lake/Wickiup, Green Lake/Soda Creek, Todd Lake, Broken Top and Tam McArthur Rim. For example, the Green Lake/Soda Creek Trail will have a maximum of 14 overnight group and 80 day-use individual permits issued, according to the agency.
Special recreation permits can be ordered through the website recreation.gov. Entry reservations will include the special recreation permit fee and the processing fees charged by recreation.gov. The processing fees are currently $1 per person for day use and $6 per overnight group.
The public is invited to offer input on the proposed special recreation fees. The public comment period lasts from Wednesday until Nov. 25.
“During the past two years, as we analyzed the management strategies needed to maintain these wilderness areas, the public shared many concerns and ideas about the fees associated with a limited entry system,” Tracy Beck, forest supervisor on the Willamette National Forest, said in a statement. “Now we seek the public’s engagement on the specifics of the fee structure.”
Representatives from the two national forests will review the comments and use them to inform how the proposal may be adjusted, according to the statement.
The majority of the proposed special recreation permit fees — 80% to 95% — would be invested in wilderness management activities, trail maintenance, visitor education and expanding work with volunteers and partners with the three wildernesses, according to the statement.
Comments on the permit fee can be mailed to the Willamette National Forest, ATTN: Recreation Fees, 3106 Pierce Parkway, Suite D, Springfield OR, 97477. Comments can also be emailed to Willamette RecFeeComments@usda.gov, or they can be dropped off at any Willamette or Deschutes national forest office during normal business hours.
— Reporter: 541-617-7818, email@example.com