Tenting charges to extend in Los Padres Nationwide Forest within the new 12 months

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Los Padres National Forest camp prices are on the rise in the New Year.

The US Forest Service announced the fee hikes this week, saying it has authorized a concession company to raise rates at 33 campgrounds and one day campground in Monterey County.

The parks are all managed by Parks Management Co. In 2016, the Forest Service approved a special use permit for the private company to take over operations at 40% of Los Padres sites, including several in Ventura County. At the time, the Forest Service said a lack of funding and staff prompted the change in management, which resulted in new charges, in some cases doubling previous rates.

Almost all fees have remained the same for the past six years, Los Padres officials said this week. However, they said the company has requested increases for 2023 to offset rising costs, including recent increases in the California minimum wage.

The changes include:

  • Individual campsite fees increase by $10 per night, with the lowest price increasing from $20 to $30.
  • Group campsite fees increase by $25 to $50 per night depending on campground capacity. Current rates range from $100 to $150 per night.
  • Entrance fees to the Pfeiffer Beach daytime area in Big Sur will increase from $12 to $15.
  • Fees at other day-use locations are expected to remain at $10 per day.
  • The new fees will take effect on January 1st.

Los Padres locations not operated by Parks Management Co. either offer free entry or accept an Adventure Pass, which costs $5 per day or $30 per year. Camping is free at more than 50 campgrounds in the forest, Los Padres spokesman Andrew Madsen said.

Conservation group Los Padres ForestWatch raised concerns about the fee increases, including the fact that the forest service allowed the increases without giving the public an opportunity to review the proposed changes or provide input.

The higher fees could prompt campers to seek out more remote, informal locations, which could create unsanitary conditions, increase wildfire risk and damage sensitive habitats, the group said. The increases also tend to disproportionately affect low-income families, potentially creating barriers to entry.

Visit usda.gov/lpnf for more information on fees and amenities. An interactive map of Los Padres locations is available at fs.usda.gov/portaldata/r5/ap/map/.

Cheri Carlson covers environment for the Ventura County Star. You can reach her at [email protected] or 805-437-0260.