Starting November 1, day-use and camping fees at several Los Padres National Forest destinations will increase as private concessionaire Parks Management Company begins its multiyear contract to oversee operation and maintenance of the federally owned recreational sites. “Fees will go up, but we are expecting the sites to be maintained better than we can do it,” said Forest Recreation Officer Jeff Benson. “Our recreation budgets have been cut by 50 percent in the last 10 years. Even with the Adventure Pass, we haven’t been able to keep up.”
The Forest Service launched the Adventure Pass program nearly 20 years ago, charging $5 for the day-use parking permit to help pay for site upkeep. The program met fierce opposition from those against paying for access to publicly owned lands. At the same time, the Forest Service contracted campground and picnic-area management to private concessionaires, such as Rocky Mountain Recreation Company, which has operated along Paradise Road in the Santa Barbara backcountry until now. Under Parks Management in the Santa Barbara district, the Adventure Pass will no longer be valid; day-use fees will double to $10.
For the past several years, there were six concessionaires doing business in Los Padres. This new agreement consolidates management solely with Parks Management, an established concessionaire based out of Templeton, in San Luis Obispo County. “This represents another level of cost for forest visitors,” said Alasdair Coyne of Keep the Sespe Wild. “In the Ojai district, sites for car camping that were once accessible with the [$5] Adventure Pass will now cost $20 per day. That’s a big jump. It’s becoming more expensive for the average person to visit the forest, and that’s a pity. Unfortunately, that’s the way things are going nationwide. There’s been more privatization of public lands.” Benson added that after two years, Parks Management can request another fee increase, but it would need Forest Service approval.