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State parks department seeks Coastal Commission OK for beach fees at Sonoma County coast

  • Murray Bruce of Berkeley stopped to take in the view at Goat Rock State Beach on Friday, September 28, 2012. State parks are proposing an $8 day use parking fees for California State beaches.

State parks officials, unbowed by public criticism of their bid to expand day-use fees at Sonoma Coast beaches, are taking their case to a higher authority.

The agency has appealed Sonoma County's overwhelming rejection of the fee proposal to the California Coastal Commission, which could override local concerns and implement the plan.

The state is seeking permission to install self-pay machines at 14 beaches in Sonoma Coast State Park and Salt Point State Park and charge visitors $7 for parking. Officials argue the fees are needed to maintain or restore services on the Sonoma Coast and to fulfill a legislative mandate for state parks to develop new sources of revenue.

Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman for the state agency, said this week that officials do not have an estimate for how much revenue the iron rangers would generate. She also could not say whether that money would be used for local projects or spent elsewhere within the state parks system.

Under state legislation enacted last year, 50 percent of revenues generated within a park district would go back to that district so long as it, and the state parks system on the whole, meet revenue targets. The money otherwise is pooled in a State Parks Recreation Fund.

Waters said in that event, other districts aren't penalized<NO1><NO>. She said money in the recreation fund benefits the parks system "as a whole."

Waters said the Russian River District, which includes state parks west of Highway 101 to and along the Sonoma Coast, was on track to meet its revenue target of $1.04 million for the fiscal year, which ended June 30. The figure is based on revenue generated by the district in the past. The money includes day-use and camping fees. <NO1><NO>

The revenue target for the entire state parks system is $105 million also was forecast to be met for the fiscal year, Waters said.

The 12-member Coastal Commission last month approved state parks' application to install automated payment machines at five beaches in Orange County. Charles Lester, the commission's executive director, signaled his support for such fees in a May 20 letter to Anthony Jackson, director of state parks.

But that does not necessarily mean the commission will support such fees on the Sonoma Coast, Dan Carl, director of the commission's North-Central Coast office, said Tuesday.

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