BY HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
More than 50 people met in Sisters Monday night to learn more about proposed recreation permit fees planned for the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters wilderness areas.
The Deschutes National Forest Service says the proposed fees – $3 for a day pass and $5 for an over night fee – will help add more rangers to several nearby wilderness areas and keep the areas clean.
But some community members have concerns.
“I just don’t want to be so discouraging to people that they say forget it I’m not going to even go,” said Ted Sowers, a Sisters resident.
Sowers wonders how limiting the amount of those who can access the wilderness with the new entry system and fee structure will affect Central Oregon communities.
“When people come to Central Oregon for a hike, it’s not just about the hike,” he said. “They’re checking into our hotels, restaurants, getting gas.”
Sowers says it’s a balance between letting people enjoy the area and limiting the traffic. He, like many Central Oregonians, knows the struggle of a busy trail.
“It’s 10 (a.m.) and there’s no place to park.”
At the open house, people asked questions about the fee structure and submitted their opinions.
Comments will be summarized and will help inform the Forest Service’s final proposal.
“People had questions tonight about what the practical implications would mean for them,” said Lisa Machnik, the recreation, heritage, lands and partnerships staff officer for the Deschutes National Forest.
Machnik wants people to submit comments on the proposal’s “no show” policy, how many days should be reservable, and opportunities for communities who might not be able to afford the pass.
Members of the public can submit their opinions by dropping them off at any Willamette or Deschutes National Forest office until November 25th.
“We’re really looking for the public comment so we can do the best job we can,” she said.