Fees for state park visitors increasing

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— Starting Jan. 1, fees for state parks across Colorado will increase for the first time in five years.

The fee increase will affect three state parks in Routt County Yampa River State Park, Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake.

A daily vehicle pass, which did cost $4, will now cost $5.

"It is still a heck of a good value," said Ron DellaCroce, Yampa River State Park manager. "When you can go to a place for $5 for the whole day, that is a pretty good deal."

The fee for an annual vehicle pass has increased from $40 to $50.

This pass provides unlimited access to all 40 state parks for a full calendar year.

Despite the fee increase, DellaCroce does not expect the number of visitors to drop off at any of the parks in the county.

"I don't think this will have an impact," DellaCroce said. "Whether it is good or bad, we don't know yet, but we will find out."

The state increased the fees to generate revenue necessary to maintain the state's park system. Revenue is needed to pay for staff and maintenance at existing facilities.

According to state statute, the parks have to generate 70 percent of their total funding.

"We have to be a money maker," DellaCroce said. "Sometimes that is hard to do. The fee increase will help us meet our goals as costs for everything else goes up."

Although fees increased, the fees for five parks were reduced to encourage visitation.

These parks are Harvey Gap, Sweitzer, Paonia, Mancos and San Luis Lakes.

Before the new fees were adopted, state park officials reviewed prices at public and private campgrounds.

In general, state officials found that Colorado's fees were below the market rate.

For example, an annual permit for Arizona's 26 parks and Utah's 39 parks costs $65.

The state's camping fees for a full hook-up spot are also lower than the national average of $20. A full hook-up campground spot in the state costs $16.

Despite the fee increases, DellaCroce does not anticipate people will stop coming to the parks.

"We have had a good winter," he said. "We have had a lot of people come through the door."

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