As funding for California state parks continues to decrease, park visitors will begin paying increased fees on April 15.

Facing a $15 million budget cut for the 2004-05 fiscal year, which follows an additional $20 million in cuts made since 2001, the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) announced last week that annual pass prices will almost double. The prices will increase incrementally from $67 to $125 over the next three months.

All other park entrance and usage fees, including day-use and camping fees, are scheduled to increase July 1 – some by over 50 percent. Day-use fees currently range between $3 and $5; after the increase, the fees will range between $4 and $14. Group camping site fees currently range between $12 and $270; after the increase, the fees will range between $14 and $450. Some parking and camping fees will also be placed on a sliding scale in which demand for park facilities will govern price, thus allowing more “… affordability and access for people of all income levels,” according to the CDPR press release.

Eight state parks are located within Santa Barbara County: Carpinteria, El Capitan, Point Sal and Refugio state beaches; Gaviota State Park; and Chumash Painted Cave, El Presidio de Santa Barbara and La Purisima Mission state historic parks.

While the CDPR weathered previous budget cuts by laying off nearly 200 employees and consolidating management positions, it said further personal cuts would require the closure of over 100 parks.

“Because most of the state parks’ budget goes to wages and benefits, cuts alone would require the layoff of an additional 250 permanent employees and 800 seasonal employees,” a December CDPR press release says. “By raising fees, the $15 million budget reduction will be offset by the added fee revenue.”