By Sharon Wootton Herald Columnist
Camping just got more expensive.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission recently approved changes to agency fee policies “so they may be based more on market conditions and cost of service,” according to a press release.
Let’s follow the language:
•Fees are based on “variable pricing options typical in the private sector.”
“The new fee structure will result in lower average price for campsites over the course of a year,” yet raise income because fees for premier sites for weekends, holidays and prime seasons will be raised.
“A goal … is to increase overall occupancy throughout the year.”
I am grinding my teeth over the language and apparently am unable to make the intuitive leap from higher prices to increased overall occupancy, unless the goal is considered met if campers are spread out through the year.
I know the theory: Make the best campsites more expensive to force thousands of people to choose the less expensive days of the week or the less expensive sites. Or find some other entertainment.
But wait: The agency will now have flexibility in “bundling fees” that provide “package incentives to visitors and to provide discounts to encourage use during lower visitation times.”
So what does that mean to you?
Proposed 2014 base rates are:
•Primitive campsite, $12 (2013 price)
Standard (tent) site, $25 (8 percent increase)
Partial-utility site, $30 (2013 price)
Full utility site, $35 (8 percent increase).
Remember, those are the base rates. The agency could charge up to an additional $15 for premier sites, and up to $7 on standard, or $15 for RV campsites for weekends and holidays.
But hey, campers may receive a discount “for designated economy sites year-round and even greater discounts during the winter season.”
I wonder if there’s a discount if your assigned campsite is under snow.
Congress: I never thought I’d use the word sequestration in a column, but here it is, the bear in the tent.
The National Park Service is preparing an across-the-board, 5 percent budget cut should Congress fail to meet a March 1 deadline to avoid sequestration.
That would mean reductions of $604,000 in fiscal year 2013 in Mount Rainier National Park’s proposed operating budget of $12.07 million and $639,000 in Olympic National Park’s proposed budget of $12.77 million.
That translates into reduction of hours, shorter seasons, fewer employees and closure of some areas.
A recent study showed that the nation’s national park system generates $31 billion in private-sector spending and 258,000 private-sector jobs each year.
Out of luck: Looking forward to climbing Mount St. Helens on a sunny summer weekend? Good luck with that.
Just a few $22 permits are left for weekends in June, July, August and September, partly because the limit is 100 climbers per day May 15 to Oct. 31, and partly because of weekend demand.
Plenty of weekday permits are available.
Permits are required to climb above 4,800 feet elevation on the 8,328-foot high mountain, and are required year-round. Buy them through the Mount St. Helens Institute, 360-449-7837 or www.mshinstitute.org.
Counting bills: There’s still time to join in the Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 15 to 19. It takes 15 minutes a day to be part of the annual worldwide survey.
Living in an apartment is not a drawback. Just pick a site, identify, count and enter the results at www.birdsource.org/gbbc.
On the bookshelf: An iconic birder has been brought to life in Peggy Thomas’ and Laura Jacques’ nicely done “For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson” ($17, ages 8 and older).
In school, “Professor Nuts Peterson” was not like the other kids, but by following his own path, he became a birder, an artist, an advocate and creator of “A Field Guide to Birds,” the best-selling bird book of 7 million copies.
“For the Birds” offers life lessons within Peterson’s biography, lessons by which all ages can benefit.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964.