Fee hike proposed at Open Pond

Published 1:10 am Saturday, February 1, 2014

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to increase camping fees at Open Pond Recreation Area on the Conecuh National Forest. Open Pond Recreation Area is located 16 miles south of Andalusia off Alabama Highway 137, and is a popular site for camping, fishing, boating, and hiking.

Under the proposal, camping fees would increase from $12 to $16 per night for electric and water hookup sites. Fees for primitive sites with no utilities would increase from $6 to $8 per night. The day-use fee of $3 per vehicle would not change.

Fees at Open Pond have been at their current level since 1996. “Obviously, our costs for utilities and maintenance of the campground have increased since that time,” said Tim Mersmann, District Ranger on the Conecuh National Forest. “This fee change would help cover increased costs and move us closer to fees for similar public and private campgrounds in our area.”

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004 allows the Forest Service to keep 95 percent of fees collected at recreation sites to use locally to operate, maintain, and improve the sites. “Proposed fee increases would be invested directly in maintenance and improvement of Open Pond facilities,” Mersmann said.

By law, fee change proposals for national forest recreation areas are presented for public comment and must be approved by a citizen’s advisory committee. The Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee (RRAC) serves this role for national forests across the South. Committee members represent a broad array of recreation interests. The committee ensures fee proposals are reasonable and publicly acceptable. The RRAC is scheduled to consider the Open Pond proposal in late February 2014.

Other developed recreation areas on the Conecuh National Forest are Blue Lake Recreation Area, a day-use picnic area and swimming beach; Leon Brooks Hines Public Fishing Lake in Escambia County, Alabama; and the new Conecuh Shooting Range, opened last fall. Fees for these areas are not affected by this proposal.

For more information or to provide comments about this fee proposal for the RRAC, please contact Travis McDonald at (334) 222-2555 (ext. 102) or send email to pa_alabama@fs.fed.us