SNOW AND ICE cover the beach at Reid State Park in Georgetown on Wednesday afternoon.

SNOW AND ICE cover the beach at Reid State Park in Georgetown on Wednesday afternoon.

GEORGETOWN

Changes are in store for 2016, especially for local and out-of -state beach goers who will see an increase in state park entrance fees beginning this month.

John Bott, spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said the increase is an attempt to cover costs related to maintenance and upgrades to the parks.

Infrastructure improvements, such as a new septic system, a new potable water source and two new bathhouse and restrooms, were performed in 2008 and 2010 at Popham Beach and Reid State Park respectively, he said.

Bott also noted that camping reservation fees and state park fees have not been updated in several years.

“It’s been a significant amount of time, and I don’t think we’ll ever charge enough for our fees to cover the actual costs of maintaining state parks,” he said.

“For some of these parks, we’re dealing with inflation of cost of goods and services over the last 13 years,” he added. “The $2 reservation fee has not been increased in 25 years, and is going to be $5.”

Currently, the entrance fee at Popham Beach has risen from $ 4 to $ 6 for Maine residents, and from $6 to $8 for nonresidents. Reid State Park has also risen from $4.50 to $6 for Maine residents and $6 to $8 for nonresidents.

Other parks also reflect similar increases.

The price of park passes will not rise, for now.

Bott said those fees will also be revised in 2017 and implemented when passes go on sale on Aug. 15 for the following season.

Annual vehicle passes are currently priced at $70, which allows all the occupants of up to a 17-passenger vehicle free day-use.

Bott encouraged visitors to take advantage of the passes this year.

“It was with reluctance that our fees were aligned with the rest of the country,” he said. “We also want to offer the most value that we can for people because these are public treasures.”

With a seasonal staff who mainly operate during the summer months, state parks also rely on an honor system where visitors can drop off their fees if staff members are not present at the entrance booth, though collection rates are fairly low and estimated at only 10 percent, according to Bott.

“ If you compare us to private campgrounds or other state park systems, you’d find we’re right in the middle of the pack, but we also offer significant programming at a free and reduced cost,” he said.

For residents like Sandy Jaeger of Georgetown, the fee increase hits close to home.

When Jaeger and her husband moved to Georgetown 19 years ago, she said they couldn’t afford oceanfront property, but moved into a home that was a mile and half from Reid State Park.

“ We had four kids and our income was never huge, but it would have meant a lot to have the park affordable,” she said.

Jaeger and her husband still frequent the park as often as they can, whatever the season.

“ I’m not saying ( the parks) don’t deserve money, but it should come from taxpayer funds,” she said. “For families … a dollar and half can make a big difference.

“ It breaks my heart to think how so many struggling families just won’t be able to go,” she added. “I’m mindful that other state parks cost more, but we’re Maine, and … we want them to be able to go to the park.”

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• THE ENTRANCE FEE at Popham Beach has risen from $4 to $6 for Maine residents and from $6 to $8 for nonresidents. Reid State Park has also risen from $4.50 to $6 for Maine residents and $6 to $8 for nonresidents.


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