The fee to camp at Coleman Lake has been $12 per night since 1996, according to a news release issued last week by the Talladega National Forest, Shoal Creek District. The money helps to fund maintenance and upgrades on the sites where they are collected, said Karen McKenzie, district ranger.
At Coleman Lake, the fees have helped fund work such as a new picnic pavilion, sod, gravel on the camping pads, an upgraded water system and plumbing fixtures, according to the news release.
“The fee increase would be consistent with inflationary costs as well as ensure that fees are comparable to similar public and private sites,” the release states.
According to the press release, comments from the public on the fee increase were collected in 2008 from October through December but were never acted upon.
McKenzie said the five-year delay in reviewing the comments was due to dormancy of Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee, a citizen’s advisory committee whose job is to ensure the U.S. Forest Service addresses public concerns about recreation fees.
Taylor Stein, one of the original members of the committee, said he was unsure exactly why the group hadn’t met. Some of the people had to be reappointed, which takes time administratively. And also, Stein said he thought there were few requests for fee increases during that time. So, it may have been a cost-cutting move, he said.
“It costs a lot of money to bring us together,” Stein said.
Although the members are volunteers, the government pays all their travel expenses, he said.
The former responses are still valid, though, McKenzie said. In addition, the public is invited to once again comment on the increase by calling McKenzie at 256-463-2272 extension 102. When the comments were requested in 2008, they were generally favorable, McKenzie said.
The next committee meeting is expected to be in September or October, Stein said. The meeting will be announced on the website at www.fs.usda.gov/main/r8/recreation/racs.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.