If proposals being made by the U.S. Forest Service go through, you’ll soon be paying more to pitch your tent.
Citing an increase in campers and the cost of upkeep at its recreation areas, the Forest Service is thinking of raising its camping fees at two Croatan Forest sites.
Under the proposal, the cost of camping at Flanners Beach would go from from $12 to $20 per night, while camping at Oyster Point would go from $7 a night for single sites and $14 for double sites to $10 and $20, respectively. Flanners Beach is located off U.S. 70 between Havelock and New Bern, while Oyster Point is located off N.C. 101 in Carteret County along the Newport River.
The Croatan is not alone in sites facing possible camping increases. Other North Carolina sites looking at possible increases include six campgrounds along the Nantahala River, four at Pisgah in Haywood County, and three at the Uwharrie campgrounds in Montgomery County.
Also facing increases are group campgrounds, cabins, day-use areas, shooting ranges and whitewater launches, but none of those are in Eastern North Carolina.
Logan Free, developed recreation program manager for national forests, said that new fee proposals for each site would be packaged with public comments and presented to the Southern Recreation Resources Committee, a citizens’ committee that has final say over such requests over all the Southern forests from Virginia to Florida to the south and Texas to the west.
“We will be presenting all these proposals to RACC on Oct. 23 and 24,” Free said.
A decision will be announced shortly after the meeting and, if the rates are approved, they would go into effect by next summer, Free said.
Free said the proposed increases are based on a pricing guideline provided by other southern forests, which are determined by how modern each site is.
“The price really comes down to the amenities provided,” he said. The $20 price to camp at the 41 sites at Flanners Beach “is consistent with other campgrounds that are highly developed and have flush toilets and showers,” he noted.
Oyster Point is a much smaller campground with 15 sites, and more primitive amenities.
According to a release from the Forest Service, “current pricing at many Forest sites have remained static for over a decade and have not kept pace with other recreation sites.”
Even so, Flanners Beach has been operating well within the black. Free estimated the maintenance cost in 2016 at $55,245. Meanwhile, revenue from camping fees were $62,700 for the same period.
He emphasized that “up to 95 percent of the fees collected go back into the sites. The excess monies will go toward knocking out the deferred maintenance that has accrued over the years.”
He said at least a few upgrades are also planned: renovation of a restroom at Flanners Beach and an upgrade of of sites and the addition of camping pads at Oyster Point.
So far, Free said, the overall response to rate hikes across the state “are 60-40, maybe 70-30 positive as opposed to netural or negative against the fees.”
He said he has had no response at all from the Croatan Forest area.
“I would love to have more feedback from folks over there,” he said.
The proposal, first issued on Aug, 11, is open to public input until Sept. 25. Anyone wishing to comment can call Free at 828-257-4256 or email him at NFsNCfeeproposals@fs.fed.us.