Lawmakers object to state parks plan to charge $8 a day for parking

Eight state parks and beaches on the Mendocino Coast are included in a plan to charge visitors $8 a day for parking, bringing the total number of North Coast locations where the new fees would apply to 22.

The list in Mendocino County includes the Mendocino Headlands, Point Cabrillo Light Station and Van Damme State Park, which is a popular entry point for abalone divers.

California State Parks is obtaining permits to install self-pay stations at the beaches and parks, possibly this summer. Officials say the fees are necessary to offset budget cuts and a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $1 billion.

But opposition is building, setting up what could be another fight like the "Free our Beaches" protests in 1990 when state parks implemented and later rescinded new parking fees on the Sonoma Coast.

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, said Wednesday that he is against the fee proposal, which he said "will deny access to our parks."

He has sponsored legislation that would generate more revenue for state parks in part by allowing California residents to voluntarily buy a new state parks license plate and by streamlining the purchase of annual state park passes.

State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, called the fees "yet another stealth proposal" from state parks.

Evans has sponsored a bill that includes proposals for raising revenue for parks while lowering park fees. She also is a sponsor of a proposal to spare 50 state parks from closure on July 1 by tapping into state accounts that fund road maintenance, septic system repairs and off-highway vehicle activities.

Evans measure calls for allowing state park districts to keep half of the revenues raised rather than depositing them all in the state parks and recreation fund.

Loren Rex, superintendent of the Mendocino District for state parks, said more people would support the fees if they knew the money was staying on the coast. But Rex said his mother, who lives in the district and uses the beaches there, is opposed to paying more.

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