<strong>SUNSET FOR REC FEES?</strong>  If you’re just driving through the Los Padres National Forest to take a hike or have a roadside picnic, you may no longer need an Adventure Pass, as a court decision from Arizona said recreational fees aren’t necessary if you aren’t using amenities.

Paul Wellman

SUNSET FOR REC FEES? If you’re just driving through the Los Padres National Forest to take a hike or have a roadside picnic, you may no longer need an Adventure Pass, as a court decision from Arizona said recreational fees aren’t necessary if you aren’t using amenities.

Los Padres Forest Proposes Changes in Recreation Fees

Court Decision in February 2012 May Have Prompted Decision to Eliminate Some Fees

Friday, December 6, 2013
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When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February 2012 that recreational fees cannot be charged to national forest visitors who aren’t using amenities, local forest visitors hoped that they would soon see action by Los Padres Forest officials to eliminate fees for parking near popular hiking areas such as Figueroa Mountain and the Santa Ynez River area. The court ordered mandated that changes be made to fix this within 90 days.

Until today’s decision by Los Padres Forest to adjust fees for parking in areas with no developed facilities, almost a year later nothing had changed. As a result of the inaction, last year the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, located in Durango Colorado, brought a civil lawsuit designed to make the federal agency comply with the ruling

“What in the world do they think they’re doing to ignore the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals?” asked Kitty Benzar, President of the Western Slope coalition. “I’m not crazy about having to sue, but I don’t know what else to do when a federal agency isn’t following the law. You can’t call the sheriff and have the district ranger arrested.” The suit included two Ojai men who have been fighting against the Adventure Pass program for more than a decade. It appears their efforts may have borne fruit though according to the Los Padres press release, the changes come as a result of a national forest review that began in 2011 not the court decision.

Seeking Comment

Los Padres officials announced today that they are seeking public comments proposed changes to fees in six of what are known in forest speak as “standard amenity recreation fee” (SAF) areas at Ballinger Canyon, Mount Pinos, Figueroa Mountain, Goldhill, the Santa Ynez River, Pozo/La Panza and Rose Valley.

Locally in the Figueroa Mountain area you will no longer need an Adventure Pass nor be charged a fee to park at any of the following trailheads: Davy Brown, La Jolla/Ballard, McKinley, Lower Manzana , Munch Canyon, Pino Alto Interpretive Trail, Sunset Valley, White Rock, and Willow Springs trailheads.

It appears from the press release that none of the trailheads in the Santa Ynez Recreation area will be free of charge, at least not in the near future. According to Andrew Madsen, PIO for Los Padres Forest, the SAF areas are required to meet a series of conditions in order to be designated as such and all of the trailheads in the river corridor area meet those conditions.

However, another part of the proposed changes could very well benefit those who head to the Santa Ynez River and Figueroa Mountain areas. If they go into effect many of the day use areas and trailheads within the SAF designated areas will be free of charge for those who have an Adventure Pass or an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which costs $80 annually for the general public or the $10 Golden Age version, a lifetime pass for those over the age of 62.

Areas which will now be free for use with the appropriate passes include the Santa Ynez Recreation Area, day use areas at White Rock, Lower Oso, Red Rock, Live Oak, Cumbre Peak, First Crossing, the Falls, Sandstone and the trailheads at Aliso Canyon, Upper Oso and Red Rock Trailhead locally and the Pino Alto Picnic Area, Figueroa Lookout Day Use Area, Davy Brown Campground, Nira Campground and Figueroa Campground in that area.

Similar changes in fees were announced for the Mount Pinos and Ojai Ranger District as well. For more information about this recreation fee proposal, please contact Tamara Wilton at (707) 562-8965 or Further information about this proposal can also be found on the forest’s website at

Comments on the proposed changes must be submitted by Jan. 6, 2014, to be considered by a citizen’s advisory committee, known as the California Recreation Resource Advisory Committee (R-RAC). Comments may be submitted to the attention of Tamara Wilton, Pacific Southwest Region, 1323 Club Drive, Vallejo, CA, 94592, or


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Nice thoughts but it should in a positive aspects, thanks for sharing.

sandracarol (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2013 at 5:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Great news!! K. Benzar of the Coalition is completely correct in stating how can Pancho Smith [District Ranger] get away with "ignor[-ing] the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals” decison of FEB. 2012?? That's 1 year and 10 months of ignoring a federal Circuit Court decision...scofflaw.
At the same time, having SAF fee areas for places with developed amenities does make sense.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2013 at 6:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

" for use with the appropriate passes" is an oxymoron because the passes are not free. A fee can be charged, or a pass required, for the use of a developed facility, but not just to park at a trailhead and take a hike. It doesn't matter what amenities are installed at the trailhead, it is only for using them that a fee can be required. That was the core of the 9th Circuit ruling.

KBenzar (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2013 at 8:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Adventure Pass sham has been unenforceable since it started. Just ignore the signs and drive through. They may bark a lot about you needing one but there is no bite. If they want to leave a ticket on your window just thank them for the scrap paper.

You should not have to have money to enjoy the outdoors.

billd (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2013 at 10:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

True billd,

But they shouldn't be allowed to scam people anymore. Charging money for something that is free is a crime and should be prosecuted.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2013 at 3:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I have never paid that stupid fee. Got a FS cite once, wadded it up and threw it away.

Perspicacious (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2013 at 8:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's hard to avoid having to deal with the pass when you go to the Paradise Rd areas since the concessionaire has a kiosk and gate across the road.

I've never bought the pass and never will, but it does prevent me from getting past that gate into the upper Paradise Rd areas. I go up there less than I used to for that reason.

cycleboy (anonymous profile)
December 8, 2013 at 9:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't be intimidated by the kiosk. Just tell them 'no thanks' and stop (because there is a stop sign there) and keep going.

Just because there is a for profit concessionaire keeping a percentage of fees collected from the public doesn't make it legal.

richsbca (anonymous profile)
December 8, 2013 at 11:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Cycleboy, and everyone else who uses the Paradise Rd area: Be sure to send your comments to and tell her to stop the illegal adventure pass activities!

richsbca (anonymous profile)
December 8, 2013 at 11:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, I tell them no thanks everytime, make sure to stop, then simply go on. They never do anything, they can't.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 8, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One brandished a pencil at me once, eraser pointed right at me.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 8, 2013 at 2:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Georgy: It's California, it's run by people who think we should all bow down and kiss the ground we walk on. As long as the voters keep electing these Tin Horn petty bureaucrats they will continue to nickel and dime us to death.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 12:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think the Forest Service takes too much heat for things that really should be blamed on Congress. I browsed some papers that came up by Googling "Forest Service Federal Funding". It seems the FS budgeting process is so heavily politicized that it hamstrings their land management responsibilities. The Adventure Pass issue is really a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself.

One small example I found ... the FS used to be able to generate operational revenue for itself through the harvesting of timber. But conservative interests (not conservation interests) forced legislation that now requires the FS to use private interests to do the harvesting ... and take the profits.

This isn't to say there hasn't been any mis-management at the district level, but why assume that's so when you haven't looked at the big picture?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 9:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

EB - there may be larger issues involved, but for me the real stink of the Adventure Pass is that it has never done what it was put in place for.

It was started as a pilot program to fund improvements. It was initially run by FS staff, with outside vendors in town selling the pass as well. There have been no improvements that I've seen, or that are listed publicly where we could all see what a benefit this has been (yeah, right). Now it is run by an outside for-profit concessionaire, so how much of the income is even going to the FS for these nonexistent improvements?

p.s. thanks for the suggestion about ignoring the kiosk. I tried to do that once and maybe it was just a bad day to be there, but I had the woman who was there yell at us and stand in front of the car when we tried to go past (this is several years back). I'll have to try it again.

cycleboy (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 9:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

there has been little assistance from Adv. Pass but bathrooms at Davy Brown, Nira, and at the end of Pine Mtn. Rd are among the few. My beef was double taxation.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 9:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Statement by a Californian institution "who think we should all bow down and kiss the ground we walk on"

The Sierra Club does not believe that it is sound policy to charge use fees for low-impact recreational activities such as climbing and hiking while subsidizing destructive activities such as logging and mining. Charging fees has the potential to turn recreational management of public lands from a public service to the taxpayer into a commercial enterprise.

- See more at:

Sometimes it is easier to post fiction than to actually look up facts.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 10:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

billclausen, tabatha: LPNF is a national forest, not CA. Management policies are based on UN Agenda 21. LA Sierra Club & California state policies aren't relevant.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Los Padres officials announced today that they are seeking public comments proposed changes to fees.."

They did that before when this mess started, "sought input". When they didn't like what they heard (what they heard was a big, fat "NO! And HELL no!"), they thanked everyone for their "input" & passed the fee anyway.

It's like what real estate developers do when they know their project is odious & everyone's guaranteed to hate it. Build a couple of "mockups" of the ugly proposal, smile, & assemble the "stakeholders" to "offer input" & "choose a model that best suits their vision".

Each model of the proposed development is something the developer's perfectly happy to build; they're just slightly different versions of the same ugly behemoth. All will have white stucco, red tile, look exactly like every other ugly development in SB, & be equally hated, but the trick is to convince the sheeple that they actually got to CHOOSE. It's like the condemned getting to choose which instrument is used in an execution; some are quicker and possibly less tortuous than others, but all ultimately cause death.

Developer gets what he wants anyway, & the sheeple are conned into thinking they had a "place at the table" in the "visioning process".

For those of you who have ever played BS Bingo at a boring staff meeting, the above paragraph makes "Bingo!" on at least 6 doublespeak buzzwords/phrases :-)

This is what the USFS did; conned everyone into believing their opinions mattered, then rammed what they wanted down our throats anyway and expected a nice "thank you" in response. Ever since, they're received a response, and it DOES have the word "you" at the end of it, but "thank" isn't the first word.

My feeling all along has been what DrDan said, that so many folks don't realize: this is double taxation. Our taxes already PAY for these dubious "improvements".

Nonetheless, the "improvements" are pretty "rustic", and we've already paid and continue to pay via taxes. The campground hosts aren't paid. Only rangers are paid. The rest is lining the pockets of politicians, as it always does.When they want more, they just shove those greasy mitts a little deeper into all our pockets. Kind of like the school system, but that's another story for another day.

Meanwhile, I do not and will not pay to use that which the Creator hath made and given unto us. I've paid my taxes and if that isn't enough, then I want to know where the money is going & why it's going there. What I'm NOT going to do is give MORE because someone can't seem to stick to their budget. Here's a newsflash, USFS: live within your know,like all the rest of us are expected to do in the real world.

Double taxation; pure and simple.

Holly (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 11:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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