Posted by: GeekHiker | January 25, 2010

A Fee-Free Rant

I’m not the first person to blog about the subject of fees, and I probably won’t be the last.

Maybe this is one of those minor things, but last weekend it got so annoying it’s prompted me to write a bit of a rant.

I hope you’ll forgive.

Sunday, with my boots still not quite worn in and feeling burnt-out after driving all last weekend (though proud that the truck is now an international traveler), I sought out a trail close to the city. I selected the parks of Baldwin Hills, a hilly outcrop smack-dab in the middle of the L.A. Basin. I’ll blog about them shortly.

My problem here, though, isn’t the trails, it’s monetary: fees.

First, let me be absolutely clear: I get fees. By-and-large, I don’t mind paying them. You can’t get something for nothing in this world, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a hiker who doesn’t appreciate a TP-stocked clean restroom upon returning to the trailhead.

Fact is, these are tough times. Even when they end (and they ultimately will), I don’t see park funding returning to the heady days of the 1930’s. Supplemental fees are here to stay.


But is it too much to ask that they make sense?

Angeles National Forest has the “Forest Adventure Pass,” $5 a day or $30 a year.

Not too bad.

Other areas charge varying amounts. $5 at Red Rock Canyon Park. $12 at at Malibu Creek State Park. Rock Canyon State Park is $6 per day, camping $12.

Is it too much to ask for simpler amounts?

I’m sure there’s some complex formula that’s used to determine the costs but, seriously, keep it simple folks. $1 to $5, fine , but anything above that, can we round to the nearest five bucks?  Or at least outfit the iron-rangers with the ability to take credit cards for those who don’t always have exact change?

Or are they secretly hoping I’ll only have a twenty to stuff in the little envelope, and let them keep the change?

* * *

Another thing: would it be possible, at all, for the agencies to talk to one another?

To wit: Sunday I went to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook ($6). I drove in, paid my fee, and rounded the corner to find the beautiful visitors center building closed.

Not that there was a sign in the parking lot. Nope, they’d bilked me for that six bucks already.

After completing the short hike there, I headed over to Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. Keep those words in mind: State Recreation Area.

I asked at the entrance station if my parking pass from Baldwin Hills Overlook would let me in. I wasn’t surprised when the answer was “no.” Kenneth Hahn, you see, even though it is state land, is administered by L.A. County.

And they wanted their six bucks too.

I turned around.

I mean, c’mon.

If both properties are owned by the State of California can’t they figure out some way, theoretically, for a parking permit to apply at both?

Is that such a silly idea?

* * *

Even better would be if someone could figure out some sort of “all access” pass. A single pass, say $50 a year, that gets you into every park in L.A. County, then divvies up the monies amongst the agencies based on size or visitation or whatever.

Would it be easy to implement such a plan amongst agencies already competing for already scarce resources? No.

But it would be amazing.

* * *

I think my biggest annoyance with fees is their geographic placement.  It doesn’t make sense and, it seems to me, often levies the fees against those least able to pay.

Why is it that I can hike in a dozen sites in the Santa Monica Mountains for free, but a tiny little park in the middle of the city costs six bucks? Or parking at the beach costs eight?

It annoys me that so many of the parks that are within the city charge fees, whereas many places further out are free. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? There are huge numbers of people in L.A. who don’t go out into nature precisely because of cost.  They can’t afford the gas to drive all the way out to the Santa Monicas, but then they’re charged a higher fee to visit a park close to them.  And for a lot of people these days, that six bucks does make a difference.

What the solution is, I don’t know.  Maybe Malibu Creek State Park should be a couple bucks more and Kenneth Hahn should be free.  I’m sure, however, that someone could put together a fair argument why that shouldn’t be the case.

Still, the city of L.A. is well known to be park-poor, and fees on what few parks are readily available to the residents who need them most seems to be rubbing salt on the wound.

Anyway, just some random thoughts at the end of a day where there were fees everywhere I looked. End of rant.



  1. Come to Manitoba, you’ll be one happy camper. We have two types of parks. Provincial and National. Provincial parks used to charge 5 bucks a day or 20 ucks for the year, in which you would han gyour park pass on your rear view mirror and it would get you into any park in the province. Regional parks are a little more greedy, 13 bucks a day, but with very low policing you can always say you’re just in for the day and no one will ever know or care.

    A special treat from the province this year? Free entry in to all Provincial parks to encourage more visitors. How sweet is that? From Birds Hill 8 minutes out of the city to Wapusk up near Chruchill. Covered. Come on up!!

  2. I just wanted you to know there is now a friend fee. 21.85 to be my friend. I only accept exact change.


  3. I agree the fees at Malibu Creek State Park are ridiculous and they cause people to park along Mulholland to avoid them. Anyone with an interest in Malibu Creek State Park should visit 7 acres of Malibu Creek State Park has been given to a special interest group to create an unsightly RV park. Project officially known at the Ronald Reagan Equestrian Campground and RV Park. By the way, there is currently free parking at the Reagan Ranch (part of Malibu Creek State Park) until this project is built.

  4. @ missmccraken : Is that fee renewable as well? 🙂

    It seems parks are not large enough over here, there isn’t any fee for anything.

  5. @Gany: I’m still determining how long the friend fee is good for. I’m thinking it should be like a down payment, with monthly installations of pizza and a movie. What are your suggestions?

  6. Sorry to geek out on you, Mr., ah, Geek, but the lines of budgeting tend to follow the lines of authority. Different folks responsible for the parks (as well as responsible to their own authorities), different fees.

    It does make sense, in its own, bureaucratic, way, just not in any way to those who, ah, actually use those parks.

    You *might* have a shot of combining the different in-state fees, but fuggedabut the feds.

    And, frankly, the chances that city, county, and state officials will cooperate so as to apportion fairly fees according to demand and need. . . ah ha ha ha ha ha. . . .

    (Yep, just found the sense of humor I was missing in response to a comment on my blog.)

  7. haha, missmccracken cracked me up. gh, i think you’re getting a bargain there. and i like the idea of the all-access fee. i’m waiting for the jetsons tubes, then i’ll gladly pay a fee.

  8. Im guilty of paying $10 for a $4 fee (no $1 or $5). I am guilty of not paying. I try my best to pay the fees but exact change from someone who uses credit cards for everything (Cash Back Baby) is asking too much.

    What they really need to do is increase the state/Federal taxes by a percent or some fraction there of and reserve it exclusively to the parks so they could eliminate the fees all together. And while their at it they could legislate winged pigs and unicorns into existence as well. That’s why I pay my taxes.

  9. I actually think more people avoid nature because they are lazy, not broke. But that’s just me.

    I think it would be cool if the state developed some sort of “gold pass” – where you could get into all the parks for free as long as you completed a certain number of trail maintenance/volunteer hours. That way you would save all your money, but get to enjoy nature and give back to the hiking community.

    The end.

  10. CMACC – Yeah, but didn’t you just mention something about a blizzard in your last post?!?

    MissMcCracken – Do you accept credit cards?

    Mike – Interesting post, I had no idea about that. I do wish that there were more camping opportunities in the Santa Monicas, but that does seem like not quite the right approach…

    Gany – I hope not, I can’t afford it! Or maybe over there they just like their parks more!

    MissMcCracken – Ouch!

    AbsurdBeats – Well, it was a rant. 😉 I get what you’re saying. But consider this: unlike corporations, who will readily join together to get what they want, park managers are always put up against each other to compete for funds. Imagine if we could change that?

    BlakSpring – She is funny! How about transporters? Wait, nah. Yosemite would be a nightmare.

    Homer-Dog – If only we could put a note on our taxes saying “I want my money to go here…”

    MelHeth – I disagree. I know people who can no longer afford to camp in state parks because they keep raising the camping rates. I like the “gold pass” idea, maybe you should contact the Senate…

  11. Fees, fees, and more fees, that’s all banks and cell phone companies thrive on. It’s absolutely sad that these companies want positive PR but deep down inside they can’t wait to charge extra for every little thing! Aghh…

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