I will get right to the point: California State Park Annual Pass fees will go up in a matter of days. On May 1, 2012, they will increase from $125 to $195. In fact, all types of annual passes are experiencing a fee increase. Come one, come all….you only have a matter of days to purchase this pass at the lower price. Is it worth it? In my opinion, absolutely!
As for the price increase, I know California State Parks are in trouble, and I understand the need. Voters did not want to have another tax added to their vehicle fees, so this is how California adjusted to keep the parks open.
But I have another idea, call me crazy, call me a rebel, call me a dreamer…but how about this. Why not lower fees instead of raising them? Not just a little bit, but how about by half?
Really? How could you make more money by lowering prices? Before you light the comments section on fire and/or laugh your head off, let me explain first.
Maybe the idea sounds outlandish on the surface, but let’s give my idea some thought. I think the price is much too steep, and is far out of reach for many of us to even consider purchasing an annual pass. It doesn’t fit into an average budget at the $125 rate, never mind an increase to $195. The price increase probably knocks it completely out of the ball park as even a consideration for many people, including me. If the price was squashed down, not by a small amount, but let’s say by half, even if it is a temporary “sale” for a month or two, I think that more people than ever would jump at that chance. I suggest making it a drastic drop, for example from $125 to $65, and that would get many people to consider buying it when they have never been able to before.
Our state could possibly make a lot more money than it ever has for park annual pass or entrance fee sales. If this works and is kept as a long-term solution, it might remedy our state park crisis now and into the future. I don't think they should offer the low price all year, but maybe if they offered it as a discount once or twice per year, at the same time each year, it would gain momentum. We all know a sale gets more attention than keeping a price the same all the time. Having a deadline will get many people moving to buy a pass instead of putting it off for another time. If it works the first year, it would be something to consider each year. A discount in May and June as our thoughts turn to summer day trips and vacations sounds like it would attract a lot of people. I think a small reduction wouldn’t get as much attention, but if the California State Parks offered a big discount, it could open the eyes and wallets of a record amount of people.
Here in Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Mateo, and surrounding counties, we have a very unique opportunity because we have local access to many of our California State Parks. In Santa Cruz County alone, there are 14 State Parks. In adjoining Monterey County there are 20 state parks, and 16 in adjoining San Mateo County to the north. This isn’t even including any of the other counties that are within a day’s drive. California is proud to have 278 State Parks to explore. Not all of them have entrance fees and a few aren’t covered under an annual pass for various fee reasons, but most of them are covered with the annual pass. Entry fees to our parks without the annual pass range in price from $4 to $15 per car.
Just going to Point Lobos in Carmel alone is almost worth the price of an annual pass for me. It is definitely a local treasure. If you have never been, you must go. Try taking a hike from the Whaler’s cove along the North Shore Trail where you will experience water that shimmers in impossible colors of sky blue and emerald green. Fragrant wildflowers in vast rainbow of bright colors are a sharp contrast to the aqua-colored waves, frothy whitecaps and mottled gray rocks. On foggy days, you can see the Monterey Cypress trees capture the swirling fog with their straggly, spindly branches, and then release those misty streams into the wind. You can watch as the sea otters play in a turbulent pool below your hiking trail on a steep and craggy cliff side. It is an incredible place to visit. Many days you can watch as divers enter the water in the Whaler’s Cove, too. It is a true paradise within our reach.
Have you been to Big Basin Redwoods State Park and walked underneath the enormous redwoods? Have you taken a hike on the park’s many trails that vary from a half mile to one that spans 12 miles to the coast at Waddell Creek? How about taking a hike at Castle Rock State Park, or rock climbing if that is your thing. Here you can climb the actual “Castle Rocks” with hidden caves and footholds galore whether you are a pro or just a casual hiker. You can also find out how a teacher lived in a rock cave there during the 1880’s while her cabin was being built.
Through our state parks, not only will you find beauty and nature at its finest, but you can also experience the history of early life in our state. We are lucky to live in a state that preserves our history as well as the beauty of the different regions. In a few hours’ time, you can go from an ancient redwood-filled temperate rain forest, to desert chaparral. You can go from rolling farmland to sandy beaches. From there you can go from hot deserts below sea level, to the glory of the Sierra foothills Gold Country and then upward to some of the highest mountains in our country before heading down to a barren high desert ghost town like Bodie State Historic Park. Though Bodie does charge per person fees, it is definitely worth a mention as a very interesting part the California State Park system.
Sometimes, making more money doesn’t come from raising prices; it can come from reducing fees because it makes it more accessible to more people. What a great way for California to reward its citizens who have had a long and hard struggle with hard economic times. Why not provide ourselves with an affordable place to go on weekends and vacations? In this economy, many of us are looking for local “day-cations” this summer and our state parks provide the perfect solution.
So how about it State of California, Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Park system? Why not give it a try? I will even do the math and send in a plan.
I don’t know about you, but a price reduction on those passes would make me a happy camper, or even more fitting...a happy day-tripper.