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[virginia lakes]Pay to play: Are user fees fair at national parks, lakes?

2021-7-3 source:ING club

  While they are getting a free pass this summer, beach users at West Virginia’s Sutton Lake will be required to pay day-use fees starting next May, which is drawing some complaints from residents.

  In making the announcement, the Army Corps of Engineers said the fee — $5 per day or $40 annually — is already paid by those wanting to use boats in the lake.

  “The move is being made to minimize traffic congestion at launch ramps, to discontinue the handling, accounting and security challenges of accepting cash, and to better align with national Corps of Engineers policy,” according to a Corps press release.

  “Boaters have been assessed these fees since 1996 and have competed for parking and amenity usage with other visitors who were not assessed the fee. All vehicles accessing the boat launch or swim beach in Bee Run and the boat launch in the South Abutment area will need to pay,” according to the release.

  Automated fee machines will be installed in the Bee Run and South Abutment areas, the release says. Only credit card payments will be accepted. Annual passes, as well as senior passes, access passes and America the Beautiful (National Park) passes will be honored.

  National parks have been charging user fees for many years and are much pricier, with most charging $10-$20 per day per individual or a car pass for $20-30.

  The argument made by some residents is that our tax dollars should give us access to public lakes and parks. And there is merit in that talking point.

  Also, those living close to lakes and parks are more apt to be inconvenienced by large crowds and such. So should local residents living nearby get in free or at discounted rates?

  Purists among us would strongly criticize user fees, given that most of us think these for-the-public-good projects like parks, lakes and such would be covered by our taxes.

  But those thoughts have long been challenged by the argument that those who use these amenities should pay for the privilege, instead of government having to pass higher taxes to cover the costs.

  We would hope the Army Corps of Engineers would do a better job explaining how the fees are utilized and what improvements have or will be made.

  Likewise, the National Park Service should provide information on why the fees are necessary. That will at least help the public better understand why user fees are assessed.

  User fees will never be popular, but neither are higher taxes. For now, pay to play is here to stay.

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