“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
I’m not as altruistic as the Supreme Court’s great dissenter was, especially with my income taxes due Monday, but I don’t mind paying park fees.
With them, I buy public beaches, hiking trails, fishing holes and open space where I can relax and enjoy nature when I’ve had a little too much civilization.
Judging by readers’ comments, I’m not alone.
A recent letter castigated the owner of a luxury car parked along Channel Drive, a popular spot to avoid paying the $7 entrance fee at Spring Lake Regional Park: “Do the right thing and pay up. By the way, all you other cheapskates should also consider paying up.”
Robert Kourik of Occidental isn’t the first person to express that sentiment, and Spring Lake patrons aren’t the only ones jumping the proverbial turnstile.
We heard from plenty of angry readers when Annadel State Park was marked for closure a few years ago, in part because operating costs far exceed revenue from the $6 day-use fee. “Stop being entitled users, and chip in so this park can flourish beyond your immediate selfish use,” Steve Miksis of Santa Rosa said in one such letter.
Sonoma County officials concurred. After temporarily assuming management of Annadel in 2012, they discussed, among other revenue-generating ideas, charging for parking on Channel Drive to prevent people from leaving their cars outside the park and walking or biking in for free.
“They need to pay to use the park,” Caryl Hart, the county’s regional parks director, said at a Santa Rosa workshop four years ago.
Six months later, as county officials celebrated an increase in revenue from park fees, they reiterated their intention to restrict parking outside Annadel and Spring Lake. Supervisor Shirlee Zane proclaimed: “We all need to pay for these parks.”
We all need to pay for these parks. Apparently someone else ought to foot the bill for those parks — the four spots along the Sonoma Coast where the state Department of Parks and Recreation wants to impose an $8 parking fee to help offset a multi-million-dollar operating deficit for the Sonoma Coast State Beaches.
This time, Sonoma County officials are saying no, no, no.
They lined up at the mic Wednesday when the California Coastal Commission convened a hearing in Santa Rosa, declaring that day-use fees — like those charged by the county at Doran Beach and several other coastal parks — are unfair, even unconstitutional.
“We have many more children and families living in poverty today,” said Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose district includes the Sonoma Coast. “Restricting their ability to go to the beach with their families will make a real dent in our future environmental community and its protections. The county of Sonoma strongly believes that coastal access should be for everyone, not just those who are able or forced to pay.”
He noted that mass transit isn’t an option for his beach-bound constituents. If it were, it wouldn’t be free. For my family of three, a round-trip bus ride to the beach would cost a minimum of $10.50 in Los Angeles and $13.50 in San Diego. Long Beach looks like a bargain at $7.50.