Land Board OKs rise in park and ocean fees


POSTED: Saturday, August 15, 2009

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources has unanimously approved a package of proposals that will result in new or increased fees at state parks, harbors, hiking trails and forest reserves to support its Plan B, Recreational Renaissance Plan.

The fees, which mainly target tourists, will support repair and maintenance costs at recreational facilities, due to lack of funding from the Legislature.

“;While this is still far shy of what I consider the luxurious National Park Service funding model, this is critically way better off than what we are now,”; said Curt Cotrell, Parks Division assistant administrator. “;We have to start processes now to keep the facilities open.”;

While these proposals have been approved by the board, the public is still able to provide input at hearings for amendments to rules for state parks, boating and ocean recreation, and forestry and wildlife, the board said.

The advanced fee proposals include tourist vehicle fees for eight signature state parks, increased parking rates at Ala Wai Harbor and Kailua-Kona Pier, camping and cabin rates at state parks and forest reserves, and a commercial filming fee for state parks.

Several division administrators said fee increases were critical to help recreation facilities survive during these tough economic times. Through these fees, the state divisions of Parks and Boating and Ocean Recreation hope to see 38 percent and 32 percent of their budgets go toward repair and maintenance, respectively.

Boating Administrator Ed Underwood said current harbor expenditure exceeds revenue, so the division must increase fees to stay afloat.

“;The small-boat harbor revenue accounts for approximately 45 percent of our total income, but it also accounts for 8 more percent of our total expenses,”; Underwood said.

He explained that mooring rates will increase by $3.47 per foot per month at each harbor, since several harbors have complained in the past about others being subsidized. The two-tier fee schedule will charge current boaters an equal increase over five years, whereas new boaters will see an instant fee hike.

Camping fees will also rise for the first time in a decade under the proposal. Current camping fees, at $5 a night per site, do not cover maintenance costs, the committee said. It proposed to raise the fees to $18 for nonresidents and $12 for residents. Cabin fees will vary by park, with the highest price for residents at $60 a night per cabin at Kalopa, Waianapanapa and Polipoli Springs state parks.

The higher camping fees will begin when the online camping reservation and permit system is expected to launch in January.

The immense “;Back to Basics”; plan also included developing and operating public shooting ranges, installing an asset management program, designating 14 most-promising properties to generate revenue for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and amending rules to further approve those actions.

The proposal drew mixed reactions during the public testimony, but many concerns were over minor clarifications to the proposal.

“;The devil's in the detail with this kind of thing,”; said Toni Marie Davis, who asked the Boating Division to work more closely with commercial contractors.