The effects of the state budget crunch are about to be felt locally for trail users at China Camp State Park, one of the parks on the California endangered parks list recently “saved” from closure. A new Park Use Fee schedule has been announced in order to subsidize park operations. The fees are part of an effort by the Friends of China Camp, a group formed for the purpose of keeping China Camp State Park open. Park operations reportedly cost upwards of $500,000 annually, an amount the group hopes to recoup via fees from park use and fund raising.
According to the fee schedule, there are several different fees to be assessed based on usage: Park Use, Trail Use, Camping and use of the picnic facilities all now require payment. (it appears the parking pass is separate from the parking pass offered via California State Parks)
A Hiker/Runner yearly pass will set you back $25.00 for an individual and $35.00 /family, or $2.00 a day per user. Cyclists get singled out as (although it appears the fee amount has been updated recently and we’re now being charged the same amount as equestrians.) A Cyclist/Equestrian year long pass will run $35.00 for an individual and $55.00 for a family pass. Day use fees will be $1.00 more than hikers, or $3.00 a day per user. For more information on the fees click here.
Parking along San Pedro Road will continue to be free, as it is a Marin County road. I reached out recently via email on the Friends of China Camp site in regards to when the fees schedule will begin, how it will be enforced, and where the fees exactly go, but have yet to receive a response.
And now, some personal thoughts on the matter:
Like many, I was intrigued by what a State Park Closure actually means to the park itself. While I enjoy riding the basic loop occasionally, I personally prefer riding the more technical unsigned social trails on the backside of the park, and generally use sections of the main loop to access them, or for connectivity, as opposed to being the main focus on my trail experience. As a trail user and now a bike advocate that has been logging a significant amount of time doing volunteer trail work and advocacy, I have no doubt the trails would continue to be maintained. There is a good sized riding community in the San Rafael area that takes pride in taking ownership of the trails, maintaining both existing trails as well as the network of social trails.
There are rumors that the funds raised by the fees will go towards paying the salary of a trail ranger that will no doubt be enforcing the fee schedule as part of his job, but may also work to decommission the more challenging/fun social trails many of us enjoy regularly. It is hard to want to support this possible reality.
On the upside, it appears that legalizing some of the more sustainable social trails could happen. Our official stance is to support all sustainable trails, official or unofficial, and we believe the users of all skill levels should be accommodated in this. Like all trail access in Marin, this will likely be a sticky issue, and one we’ll be keeping an eye on.