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Noozhawk Asks: Information + Inspiration for Santa Barbara County

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Up with the New Concessionaire at Los Padres National Forest Campgrounds?

Reader Terri Bowen wants to know more about the new management company, and the increased cost of permits and camping fees.

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

This week’s question: What is going on with this new concessionaire at Los Padres National Forest campgrounds? I don’t think people are aware of the new camping fees.
— Terri Bowen, Goleta

A lot, it turns out!

People heading out to camp and visit Los Padres National Forest this summer need to know about changes — and higher fees — after the agency hired a new partner for campground and recreation site operations.

Why? U.S. Forest Service officials said budget cuts can be blamed for the switch in concessionaire companies, which they announced last year.

The new Special Use Permit concessionaire, Parks Management Co. of Templeton, holds the contract. Previously, six permits were issued but the agency switched last fall to one firm for the entire forest.

“Recreation budgets have fallen 50 percent in the past 10 years, significantly impacting our ability to provide maintenance, repair and customer service at recreation sites,” Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Gray told Noozhawk.

“By bringing additional recreation sites under a concession (special use permit), we are building the capacity for Parks Management Co. to better deliver the high-quality services the public has come to expect from their recreation experience in the forest.”

The switch also means the number of forest areas requiring permits has grown. The new 10-year pact includes 18 additional recreation sites over the previous 34 sites managed under private contract.

Overall, 52 sites will be managed by PMC, 23 sites will still require a Recreation Pass, and 50 remain free of charge, forest officials said.

In all, the nearly 3,000-square-mile Los Padres National Forest has 125 developed campgrounds, day-use sites and trailheads across its five ranger districts — Mount Pinos, Ojai, Santa Barbara, Santa Lucia and Monterey.

In the Santa Barbara Ranger District, no new sites were added to the concessionaire contract.

In the Santa Lucia district, however, the following campgrounds have been included to the concessionaire’s management: Figueroa, Nira, Davy Brown and La Panza. Other areas are Nira Trailhead, Navajo Flats Campground and off-highway vehicle area and Turkey Flat OHV day-use area.

The full list is broken down by ranger district on the concessionaire website, with the list of where a permit is needed in the Santa Lucia Ranger District here and Santa Barbara Ranger District here.

Under the new contract, forest visitors may see a hike in fees. The 18 newly managed sites — formerly requiring an Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for an annual pass) — now require a $20 to $35 per night camping fee or $10 day-use fee.

An annual pass for day-use sites will be available through PMC for $50 and will be good at any of the concession-managed picnic and day-use sites in Los Padres National Forest.

The Parks Management Co. pass, which is valid for a year from date of purchase, is available from the camp host and kiosk personnel along Paradise Campground in the Santa Barbara District.

Other purchase locations are Cerro Alto in the Santa Lucia District, and Kirk Creek and Arroyo Seco, both in the Monterey District.

Passes also may be obtained by mail by sending a check or money order to PMC, P.O. Box 1018, Templeton 93465.

PMC’s passes are not yet available on the company’s website, but that could change, a representative said.

Forest visitors also need to know that Interagency Senior, Access, Military and Annual Passes and “Every Kid in the Park” fourth-grade passes will not be honored at concession sites, but will remain valid at the 23 recreation sites that require an Adventure Pass.

The Adventure Pass is sold at ranger stations, at most Big 5 Sporting Goods stores in Southern California as well as other sporting goods stores.

Click here for more information from the U.S. Forest Service FAQ page.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

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