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Washington considers fee hikes for campers and boaters at its state parks

Utility campsite at Conconully State Park
Courtesy of Washington State Parks
Utility campsite at Conconully State Park

Camping and mooring boats on state lands may get more expensive next year.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is considering upping the fees for campsites and mooring. The cost of Discover Passes, which are set in state law, will not change.

The proposed increases will help the agency catch up with inflation over the last few years. Prices for camping were last updated in 2020 and for mooring in 2015.

“We really try to balance access with the revenue that we need to run the parks,” Darleen Simkins, business insights analyst at the department, told the commission on Wednesday.

Under the new fee proposal, camping prices will jump no more than $6, though the exact price depends on the type of site and time of year.

The current price of a basic campsite with no hookups is $32 during the peak season of May through September. Under the new plan, that will jump to $37. Sites with full electric, water and sewer hookups would jump to $56 during peak season.

Camping fees are the second largest source of money for the State Parks, bringing in about $23 million last year at more than 6,400 sites.

But rates for staying overnight in State Parks haven’t been adjusted in the last four years, despite rising costs.

“Inflation continues to go up, and while it might be a shocker to the customer, it’s going to be a shocker to us to not be able to recoup those costs,” Commissioner Ken Bounds said Wednesday.

Washington isn’t alone in its efforts to keep up with inflation. Idaho doubled its entry and campsite fees at some popular parks for non-residents three years ago, and Oregon began charging non-residents 25% more for RV sites two years ago.

The agency is also looking to hike boating fees, which haven’t changed in almost 10 years. The state operates more than 40 marine parks.

Current rates for launching watercraft from a state-owned dock cost between $5 to $7, depending on the location. Under the new plan, those prices would be $7 for all vessels at all parks.

The daily moorage minimum fee – currently $15 – would increase by $8, and the annual moorage minimum would jump from $60 to $80 per vessel. Commissioners said Wednesday the higher rates would still be significantly lower than those charged at private facilities across the state.

The camping price adjustment would likely bring in another $3.12 million each year for State Parks, and the mooring fees would bring in another $200,000 each year.

Upping the camping and mooring fees won’t completely cover what it costs to maintain the facilities, but it will get the agency closer, Simkins said.

The new fees must be approved by the State Parks and Recreation Commission Director Diana Dupuis, who will likely give the final OK this month. The agency would then work to implement them for all reservations made for 2025.

The agency will also look to create a structure for reviewing and adjusting fees every two years.

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.