Fee increase proposed for Lake Mead is unfair

If the planners at the Lake Mead National Recreational Area have it their way, it will cost more to recreate in the park which is the fifth most visited the National Park System.

According to the LMNRA, this park is visited more than Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Park, with an estimated 7.9 million visitor annually.

The park says they are facing a budgetary challenge as it "responds to low lake levels and a growing backlog of visitor facility needs."

Park Superintendent Bill Dickinson noted that "Lake Mead is a large lake that offers incredible recreational opportunities even with record low-water levels. We're committed to maintaining quality facilities and lake access."

The LMNRA claims it costs them $6 million every time the lake level drops by more than 20 feet, the same height the lake is expected to drop by October. Officials claim they have spent $36 million so far to respond to the low water situation.

The fees the park are proposing is a phased increase for vehicle passes for $5 for five days to $10 for seven days starting in 2011 and $15 beginning in 2014.

The lake-use fee would increase from $10 for five days to $16 for seven days in 2011. Annual vehicle passes and watercraft use passes would increase from $20 to $30 a year. Discounts for additional vehicles and vessels would be discontinued.

If approved, the increase in gross revenues would be from $3.6 million to $11.5 million with the fee increases and two new entrance stations at Cottonwood Cove and Temple Bar. Eighty percent of the fees would stay within the LMNRA, while the remaining 20 percent would be used to fund programs and projects at national park sites that don't charge a recreation fee.

The park noted that since 2000, fee dollars have funded launch ramp extensions around Lake Mead, visitor information at entrance stations, construction of the Princess Cove Road at Lake Mohave, construction of park entrances and visitor information stations, crews to remove litter, floating bathrooms/pump-out stations, and the installation of navigational buoys and lights throughout the park system.

Here is my own take on this:

There is no doubt that the lowering water levels have and will continue to cause problems for the LMNRA.

I can see improvements at the South Cove launch ramp, where they have extended the concrete launch ramps to follow the lowering water and keep the dock in place.

I know all this costs money, and I, like many of you, buy the annual passes for my vehicles and watercraft from the LMNRA. I believe in the idea of user pays.

But why should we pay for other national park sites that currently don't charge a recreation fee?

Let all of the users pay an equal and fair share. Institute a fee for those other sites, and reduce the proposed fees by the 20 percent they will collect for these other areas in the LMNRA.

They also want to discontinue the five-day pass for senior citizens that are currently $5. They are proposing a seven-day pass for $8. Why? Annual passes for senior citizens will go up from $10 to $15 in 2011.

Seniors citizens are most likely on fixed incomes and can ill afford any kind of increases, even small ones. And in reality, these folks have been paying taxies for a lot longer than most users to fund national parks, so why not cut them some slack on these fee increases?

I'm interested in knowing just how much money the LMNRA will generate as it relates to increases for all senior passes.

Public comment on all of these proposals will be taken through June 30.

Your written comments can be mailed to the LMNRA at ATTN: proposed fee increase, 601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV 89005, or 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.

If you are one of the hundreds if not thousands of Mohave County residents who recreate on the LMNRA, you should comment on these proposed increases.

I already have.