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Aug. 15, 2022

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New fees proposed at Gifford Pinchot National Forest

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LONGVIEW — Visitors to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest could soon pay more for parking and camping passes, with the forest service suggesting fee increases at several outdoor spots.

If all proposed fees are approved by a citizen’s advisory committee, the Johnston Ridge Observatory fee would go from $8 to $12 for people 16 and older, or people would pay $25 per motorcycle or $30 per private vehicle to get a Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Pass. The pass would be valid for one week at Johnston Ridge and all day use sites in the monument boundary, the United States Forest Service said in a press release.

At other sites in the monument boundary, parking fees would go from zero dollars to $5 per vehicle per day. This would apply to Coldwater Lake picnic and boating area, Hummocks, South Coldwater, Loowit, the Coldwater Science and Learning Center in winter only, Cascade Peaks Interpretative Site, Donnybrook and Cedar Creek Viewpoint.

A climbing permit for Mount St. Helens would cost $20 per person, an increase from the current $15 fee.

Outside the monument boundary, the Siouxon, June Lake and Marble Mountain trailheads would see a $5 vehicle fee. Mount Margaret Backcountry Permit would charge $10 per person per night, and the group picnic site Marble Mountain Shelter would cost $100 per day.

The public has until Sept. 16 to submit comment on fee changes that forest officials say will help keep trails open, maintain facilities and add more overnight camping opportunities.

Gala Miller, public affairs officer with Gifford Pinchot National Forest, said a noticeable increase in tourism the last few years spurred ideas about how to add services and upgrade utilities.

“We are definitely seeing that people are interested in getting out to the forests,” Miller said. “We want to find creative ways to be able to maintain these facilities at the standard people expect.”

Gifford Pinchot keeps 95% of the fee collection, Miller said, which helps pay for forest service staff, repairing toilets, trail maintenance and including more amenities like new overnight cabins.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Miller said.

In the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, the current non-fee recreation sites like Snowgrass Trailhead and Chambers Lake Day Use would charge $5 per vehicle per day.

Overnight campgrounds in the district would also see a bigger fee. Chambers Lake and Cat Creek Chimney campgrounds would cost $15 per night at a single site and $30 per night for a double site.

Group campgrounds Wakepish and Orr Creek would cost $100 per night.

A cabin at La Wis Wis Guard Station would cost $150 per night and have capacity for up to eight people. Another cabin at Nisqually (Big Creek) Guard Station would charge $85 per night and be able to accommodate up to four people. Burley Mountain Lookout would also cost $90 per night.

A full list of which fees have been proposed at which sites in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest can be viewed in an interactive map found on the forest service’s website.

Though the changes would affect several sites in Gifford Pinchot, the forest service said “about 70% of the 234 developed recreation sites on the forest would remain non-fee.”

Miller said the forest service will compile all public comments before giving the feedback to the citizen’s advisory committee, who will deliberate this fall on whether to approve the fees.

“We recognize how important recreation sites are to our local communities and those who use the sites. These fee increases will help us maintain the sites to the level and quality people have come to expect as well as make the fees more consistent throughout the state,” said Eric Veach, forest supervisor for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

How to comment

What: Proposed increased fees at Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Deadline: Sept. 16.

Mail: Gifford Pinchot Forest Service, Attention: Recreation Fees, 987 McClellan Road, Vancouver, WA 98661.

Email: SM.FS.GPNFRecFees@usda.gov.

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