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Frazier Creek approaches the lip of Frazier Falls, which plummets 176 feet to the rocks below. Frazier Falls is located off Gold Lake Highway. A paved trail leads to viewing platform. File photo

Want to hike to Frazier Falls? It will cost you

Frazier Falls rumbles from above.

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

There’s a new concessionaire in town and Plumas County residents and visitors will see some changes at popular recreation destinations on the Plumas National Forest — namely they will now be charged a fee.

Readers have called and written this newspaper to say they were shocked that it would cost them $10 to walk to Frazier Falls or that they would have to pay $10 to launch a boat at Gold Lake. Supervisor Jeff Engel mentioned it during his comment period at the Board of Supervisors June 2 meeting and the local Fish and Game commission wants the Forest Service to appear at its next meeting, scheduled for July 2, to discuss the issue.

The Forest Service — specifically the Plumas National Forest — hired a new concessionaire to oversee its recreation facilities and that entity is charging fees to maintain the available amenities.

Lee Anne Schramel, spokeswoman for the Plumas, said, “The new concessionaire is a private business that manages the campgrounds,” and explained that in its proposal to run the campgrounds, the company applied to run additional recreation sites under that umbrella. Those with picnic areas, parking lots, restrooms and benches take money to maintain, and Schramel said that the Forest Service doesn’t have the budget to do so.

That’s what Fish and Game commissioner Gary Rotta learned when his organization began researching the new fees. “The Forest Service is losing its recreation budget and it needs private concessionaires to mange,” he said.

Of prime concern to the commission is how the fees were enacted without the public knowing about them. “We got wind of it last August,” he said, “but we never saw an opportunity to comment.”

Fellow commissioner Dave Valle agreed and said that what they saw were small notices posted at various recreation sites late last summer stating that fees could be charged in 2020.

What also concerned Valle was the Forest Service’s prospectus to hire a concessionaire. “This was different. It was a concessionaire for the entire forest,” he said. Historically, it’s been divided up between different entities. Also, the prospectus contained opportunities to manage recreation sites previously managed by the Forest Service. “There were new options to charge fees,” he said.

Some of those options include very remote campgrounds such as Meadow View and Conklin in the far eastern part of the forest, as well as day use areas such as Frazier Falls. Valle said he was concerned because the fee to walk the trail went from zero to $10. The $10 fee is per carload, not per individual. The fee will go into effect as soon as the concessionaire begins servicing the facilities there.

He and the other commission members acknowledge that it takes money to maintain facilities, but remain concerned that there has been no notification and that people will be unprepared for the costs.

Boat launching fees have increased also — going up to $10 per day, with various season passes available.

Trying to find a list of fees is difficult — they are not listed on the concessionaire’s website (except if trying to make a campground reservation) nor on the Forest Service website.

Supervisor Jeff Engel said that he wants to convene a meeting of the Coordinating Council, which includes county officials and Plumas National Forest personnel. The group used to meet regularly, but has not met for a while. According to the most recent agenda, the last time the group met was Oct. 3, 2019. “This is the problem,” Engel said. “We are supposed to get together, and when we don’t, we get blindsided.”

The new concessionaire

Outdoors in Plumas LLC is the campground concessionaire for the Plumas National Forest. The campgrounds, day use areas, and boat launches it manages are located on the Beckwourth Ranger District, Mt. Hough Ranger District, and Feather River Ranger District. Its website https://www.outdoorsinplumas.com/ lists all of the recreation areas that it oversees.

More information on this subject will be provided as it becomes available.

 

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