SALEM — Visitors could soon see different fees at state parks and campgrounds under a bill passed 27-to-1 by the Senate Wednesday, June 7.
The bill allows the state parks director to adjust fees, within a range approved by the parks commission and the Legislature, up to four times a year.
The parks department's plan is to hike fees at more popular parks and campgrounds and to reduce fees at parks significantly below capacity.
"We're nearly 100 years old, and we are really looking to the future to try to figure out how we can do things a little bit differently," said Lisa Sumption, Oregon State Parks director during a hearing May 11.
Since 1952, the department has set identical rates at parks.
The change could generate up to $800,000 in the next two years, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. State parks officials said they want to use the proceeds to beef up maintenance and repairs at parks facilities.
Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, testified last month the tactic could help stimulate tourism in parts of his district on the Southern Oregon Coast.
"We know that for just a little bit more in some of our places that are very special and loved, that we might be able to drive more folks (to other parks)," Sumption said. "For example, on the South Coast, we could get folks to go from a larger campground that's full and maybe use price and other amenities to drive folks to Humbug Mountain, which is at 17 percent capacity."
The goal is to find "a way to disperse people and create greater access and opportunity through price as one tool," she said.
The House of Representatives passed the legislation unanimously May 30. The bill needs only a signature from Gov. Kate Brown to become law.