Certain high-traffic areas of the Deschutes National Forest that would typically close Oct. 1 will remain open and accessible later into the fall and winter. But those services come at a cost.
The U.S. Forest Service announced earlier this week that the 61 campsites, trailheads and other portions of the Deschutes National Forest that require a fee payment between May and September will continue to do so as long as they’re open to the public.
Jean Nelson-Dean, spokeswoman for the Deschutes National Forest, said the goal is to continue providing services to the public, such as trash removal and clean toilets, even after high season ends. In order to do that, the Forest Service needs to continue collecting day-use fees.
“This essentially allows us to be more responsive,” Nelson-Dean said.
Nelson-Dean wrote in an email that the 61 campsites, which include everything from Big Eddy Trailhead to the North Wickiup boating site, have historically seen medium to high usage, and have gotten steadily more popular as Central Oregon’s population has grown. She added that these popular sites have seen more people using them in the fall, winter and spring. Continuing to charge fees from October through the end of April would allow the Forest Service to continue to provide services to keep up with demand.
“Previously when people could access these sites after September or before May the sites would not get maintained or we would have to find other funds to continue to provide services to the public,” Nelson-Dean wrote.
The Forest Service does not have projections on how much money the additional fees will generate, as openings and closures are dependent on how long each site sees usage and remains snow-free. The list of 61 sites includes spots relatively close to Bend, such as Tumalo Falls Trailhead, but also features locations along the Cascade Lakes Highway, including trailheads at Devils Lake and Wickiup Plains, which won’t be accessible once the road closes for the season beyond Mount Bachelor.
Nelson-Dean added that locals with an annual Northwest Forest Pass likely won’t notice much of a difference. The passes, which can be purchased for $30 and provide access to all day-use areas operated by the Forest Service in Oregon and Washington, will continue to allow access as long as the areas remain open.
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