Santa Barbara County supervisors agreed to increase the cost of annual passes and other fees for county parks Tuesday, at the same meeting where Parks Division staff talked about possible promotions to boost visitors at Lake Cachuma’s campground.
Jalama Beach County Park has high occupancy at its campground — 80 percent to 90 percent — year-round, while Cachuma Lake Recreation Area’s campground gets full on summer weekends but drops to 40 percent occupancy during the week in summer months, and as low as 5 percent full in the winter, said Sherman Hansen, business manager for the Parks Division.
“At the current rate, if we increase occupancy by 1 percent a year, we increase our revenue by about $75,000,” Hansen said.
Supervisor Steve Lavagnino asked about the health of Lake Cachuma concessionaires in the winter, when business is slower, and Hansen said the boat rentals have shown huge increases in year-over-year numbers since 2018-2019 winter rains boosted the lake’s water levels, after years of drought.
“The restaurant just came on board in September and they’re already showing numbers that surprise me,” he said.
Lavagnino said the county should look into talking to officials at the federal level — at the Bureau of Reclamation — about allowing Cachuma visitors to swim, water ski and windsurf since that would help expand the park’s draw. As a domestic water supply source, the lake prohibits activities that include body contact with the water.
Supervisors voted to increase the annual vehicle permit fee, for county residents, to $100 from $90 for Jalama Beach and Lake Cachuma parks, and also increase annual Cachuma canoe/kayak fees to $40.
The county won’t charge fees for the Cachuma pool except on holidays and Fridays through Sundays, since otherwise it’s not worth the money to staff a person collecting fees, according to Parks Division staff.
Affordable cabins at Jalama Beach are expected to open next year, and the county surveyed Lompoc “two-star” hotels before deciding to charge $90 for weekdays and $120 for weekend stays.