By Debra Moore
Speak up and you shall be heard. When area residents learned that one of their favorite hikes — the trip to Frazier Falls — would cost $10, the reaction was swift and loud.
Today, it was announced that the $10 fee has been axed.
“We will pull Frazier Falls and not have fees charged,” said Chris Carlton, Plumas National Forest supervisor, before adding, “We will have to find a way to balance things out.”
Carlton’s comments came during a meeting June 25 of the Plumas County Coordinating Council that brings together Plumas County officials and representatives from the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests.
Plumas County Supervisor Jeff Engel had asked to discuss Frazier Falls during the meeting after he had heard from a number of his constituents about the new fee there, as well as at Gold Lake. He wasn’t the only one; Forest Service officials heard the outcry as well.
This is the first year that a new concessionaire — Outdoors in Plumas — is running a number of campgrounds and other recreation facilities on the Plumas National Forest, and this year those responsibilities include 26 additional sites that had previously been operated by the Forest Service. “We just don’t have the people to maintain the sites,” Carlton said. “We either include them (the sites) or we close them.” That’s why businesses are hired to manage the recreation areas.
Part of the concessionaire’s duties will be to address a backlog of maintenance and repair issues, which cost money. Carlton said notices were posted last year about the possibility of pending fees, but he wasn’t sure if people were aware. He noted that it probably could have been handled better, but this has been a unique year.
“I was pretty much blindsided by this,” Engel said during the conversation. He explained that many people like to hike there on a regular basis, and to charge, especially during a pandemic, was too much. Engel went on to suggest that maybe a group like “Friends of Frazier” could be formed to maintain the amenities at the site. Frazier Falls features a paved trail, benches, a picnic area and restroom facilities.
As for Gold Lake, Engel said that he can accept putting $5 in an envelope to launch a boat at Frenchman, but the $10 fee at Gold Lake was too much. And in addition, the method of collection was difficult. “They want you to pay a fee, but then you have to go to the campground. You can’t turn a boat around there.”
It was explained that once the recreation sites are fully operational, that won’t be necessary and the fees will collected onsite.
Emily Moghaddas, who is a recreation staff officer on the Plumas National Forest, said that she researched what happened when Frenchman and Lake Davis instituted fees. “There is an initial shock,” she said. “It’s going to be rough in the first year.”
Carlton suggested that if a $5 fee at Frenchman was acceptable, but $10 at Gold Lake was too much, there might be room to work with the concessionaire. “This is a five-year contract with Outdoors in Plumas and they want to be supported in the community as well.”
Moghaddas said that there are season passes available for those who use the lake and recreation areas on a regular basis, with various options. She also reminded meeting attendees that the concessionaire tries to hire as many local people as possible, which benefits the economy, and the overnight sites contribute to the county’s TOT (transient occupancy tax) revenue.
Carlton said that the first year for a new concessionaire is always challenging, and new changes would be difficult in the best of times, but this is happening in the midst of a pandemic. It was suggested that the concessionaire be invited to the next meeting, which will be scheduled for sometime in September.