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New Fee Station And Fee Increase Considered At Lake Mead

Moapa Valley Progress of Overton, Nevada

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The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is proposing a recreation fee increase that, if approved, could go into effect Jan. 1, 2011. According to National Park Service officials, the Recreation Area faces budgetary challenges as it responds to record low lake levels and a growing backlog of visitor facility needs. This would be the first increase since the park began collecting fees in 2000. he public is invited to comment on the proposal through June 30.

In the past, visitors approaching from the Overton end of the Lake have not been affected by entrance fees as there has been no fee station in the area. But that, too is about to change.

The National Park Service (NPS) has plans to construct a series of new fee stations at various entry points to the Recreation Area. These include locations at Cottonwood Cove, Temple Bar, Willow Beach and the North Shore road from Overton. A fee station at a point just south of the Valley of Fire State Park turnoff, is being planned to begin construction at the end of this year or the beginning of 2011.

The work on a new North Shore fee station would roughly coincide with the completion of road improvements currently being made to the Northshore road. Those improvements, including the construction of two new bridges, are funded through the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SMPLMA) and are expected to be fully completed by the end of this summer.

The proposed increase in fees

and the planned construction of new fee stations are all necessary to continue to fund the costly operations of the Recreation Area, said NPS officials.

"Lake Mead is a large lake that offers incredible recreational opportunities even with record low water levels, so we're committed to maintaining quality facilities and lake access." said Superintendent Bill Dickinson. "We recognize these are difficult times; however without a fee increase we'll be limited in our ability to extend launch ramps, build new ramps, relocate portable rest-rooms, and grade beaches and dirt roads necessary for lake access."

According to the NPS, it costs Lake Mead National Recreation Area an average of $6 million every time the lake drops by 20-feet, the same height the lake is expected to drop by October. To date the park has spent about $36 million to respond to low water, much of it funded by SNPLMA and recreation fee dollars.

"We are in a predicament," said Dickinson. "SNPLMA has provided millions of dollars to cover these costs over the past 10 years. That well is drying up as SNPLMA land sales decrease. There just aren't enough capital improvement funds to cover our costs."

The park is proposing'a phased increase for vehicle passes from $5 for five days to $10 for seven days beginning in 2011 and $15 beginning in 2014. The lake use fee is proposed to increase from $10 for five days to $16 for seven days. Vehicle and lake use passes would be valid for a full week instead of the current five days. Annual vehicle passes and lake use passes would increase from $20 to $30 each. Discounts for additional vehicles and vessels would be discontinued.

"We definitely encourage locals and frequent visitors to take advantage of the park annual passes," said Dickinson. "For a family with a vehicle and boat it would come out to about $5 a month to be an annual pass holder. We believe it's an affordable option and still a great value."

The park's total gross revenues could increase from $3.6 million to $11.5 million with the fee increases and new entrance stations. Eighty percent of those funds stay in the park. The other twenty percent is used to fund programs and projects at national park sites that don't charge a recreation fee.

With 7.9 million visits last year, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the 5th most visited park in the National Park System ahead of both Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon National - Park.

The National Park Service is interested in hearing from visitors about its proposed fee increases. Public comment will be accepted through June 30, 2010. Recreation fee dollars are most often allocated to initiatives and projects in response to visitor comments, so suggestions are encouraged.

Comments must be submitted in writing. They may be mailed or delivered in person to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, ATTN: Proposed Fee Increase, 601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV 89005; or submitted at http://parkplanning.nps.gov.

Following the comment period, the proposal will undergo an internal agency review. A final decision on implementation isn't expected from the director of the National Park Service until December.



Copyright 2010 Moapa Valley Progress, Overton, Nevada. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: April 14, 2010



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