Raft fees going up in Auburn State Recreation Area

Parkers at Ponderosa Way to pay
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Raft fees going up in Auburn State Recreation Area By Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer State Parks will be asking river-rafting businesses to dig deeper into their pockets as it works to make up for Bureau of Reclamation funding cutbacks in the Auburn State Recreation Area. Recreation Area Superintendent Mike Lynch said rafting fees on both the north and middle forks of the American River are being raised this season. The charge to whitewater-rafting contractors on the two rivers will increase 40 percent from $5 to $7 for each raft customer that takes part in a trip. The Auburn State Recreation Area also has jurisdiction over South Fork whitewater licensing at Coloma. Fees there will rise 50 percent to $3 from $2, Lynch said. With bureau cutbacks and State Parks needs to make up $300,000 due to federal funding cutbacks, Lynch said the recreation area’s user fee for parking will also be expanding into a new area. Plans are for parkers along the Weimar area’s Ponderosa Way to start paying a $10 fee. The area covers parkland near the Ponderosa Bridge over the North Fork of the American River. Parking and entry fees are already charged at the Maidu Drive entrance in Auburn to China Bar, the Old Quarry Trail parking lot at the American River confluence and the trailhead at Cool. Lynch said the fee increases and new parking area will help bridge the funding gap to keep areas like Lake Clementine open year-round. The bureau has pledged $1.1 million annually for the next two years and officials say it’s committed to retaining funding for the park. The local effort to provide what is considered adequate, long-term funding for the recreation area was bolstered last week with a unanimous resolution from the Placer County Water Agency requesting preservation of federal funding. Placer County, El Dorado County and the city of Auburn are also supporting the drive to keep funding levels up in the face of lowered government revenues. Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes told Water Agency officials that they’re pushing for a $2 million annual commitment for the recreation area. He added that the recreation area attracts 1 million visitors a year and provides a huge economic benefit to Auburn and surrounding areas. Coloma’s Nate Rangel, president of the California Outdoors whitewater industry organization, said that State Parks, to their credit, negotiated a compromise on fee increases. The increases that were initially being looked at were 60 percent across the board but ended up lower, he said. “The higher increases weren’t timely because many of us had already done our brochures,” Rangel said. Rangel said that he’s not raising prices to reflect the new fees at his business, Adventure Connection, but he can’t speak for others. “I don’t know how, in a recession, that you can charge $5 more,” he said. The numbers for whitewater customers on the three rivers last year were: North Fork (1,526); Middle Fork (17,166) and South Fork (about 60,000). Tim Woodall, president of Auburn’s Protect American River Canyons, said that while canyon users are being asked to pay their “fair share” of costs for recreation, safety and fire protection, it’s still incumbent on the federal government to step up to fund the park. The new Ponderosa Way parking charge will provide an additional ranger presence in an area that many have complained has become a popular party spot, strewn with garbage and the scene of excessive drinking, Woodall said. Lynch said that the fee could be charged at the entrance to the bridge area as soon as April.