Sonoma County to consider dropping day-use fees on coast

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will consider Tuesday whether to adjust day-use fees at regional parks and trailheads along the coast.

The county has been under pressure to modify or eliminate day-use fees in certain places in order to be consistent with its opposition to California State Parks’ plan to expand such fees on the coast.

The state is seeking permission to install 15 self-pay machines at beaches on the Sonoma Coast and charge visitors $7 for parking.

The areas where the new fees would apply are Stump Beach, Russian Gulch, Goat Rock, Shell Beach, Portuguese Beach, Schoolhouse Beach, North and South Salmon Creek, Campbell Cove and Bodega Head. The state for decades has been charging a day-use fee at several Sonoma Coast parks, including Fort Ross, Bodega Dunes and Wrights Beach.

The California Coastal Commission could take up the state’s request at its mid-April meeting in San Rafael.

State parks originally sought a coastal permit from Sonoma County to implement the new fees. Supervisors in June 2013 unanimously rejected the plan, mainly on the grounds that they felt the new fees would restrict access to the coast, in particular for low-income people and seniors.

But that stance garnered criticism, given that the county charges fees at several regional parks and trailheads on the coast. Supervisors appear to be trying to head off that criticism by showing a willingness to drop some fees, depending on the outcome of the commission meeting.

Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who represents the west county and has been a vocal opponent of the state’s plans, was traveling Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Caryl Hart, director of regional parks, said she anticipates the county would eliminate day-use fees at several coastal locations if the commission denies the state’s appeal. She said that could include five trailheads at Sea Ranch and at Pinnacle Gulch in Bodega Bay.

Hart said those locations offer parking but no amenities.

She said county parks would not seek to impose new fees should state parks prevail.

“We’re certainly not going to be charging more fees at any of our parks. That is not being proposed or discussed,” Hart said.

Hart said the three coastal parks run by the county - Doran Beach, Stillwater Cove and Gualala Point - would continue to charge day-use fees because they each offer services such as campgrounds, restrooms and rangers.

County staff also has argued that the decision to charge fees at those parks was made prior to the county’s adoption of a local coastal plan, which states that the county must take “all necessary steps to protect and defend” public access rights “to and along the shoreline.”

Removing fees at regional parks along the coast would reduce revenue by about $38,000 annually.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or On Twitter @deadlinederek.

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