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Confluence parking fee not a reality yet, but remains an option

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Will there soon be a fee to park at the American River confluence below Auburn? It?s hasn?t happened yet but could become reality as early as this summer. Under a new financial assistance agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, it?s under consideration in the context of changes in fee schedules at the Auburn and Folsom state recreation areas, according to ASRA Supervising Ranger Mike Lynch. ?State money is drying up and user fees are more important,? Lynch said. ?We?re looking at all areas where we don?t have fees but provide services ? restrooms, trash pickup, repair of signs, patrols and the like.? Any change in fees likely would begin July 1, when the new agreement goes into effect. ?Typically we give at least 30 days notice and have an education period,? Lynch said. ?Last year in Auburn we had a $300,000 cut in budget. Part of that budget cut was that we would raise fees and we did raise fees with our commercial rafting companies and, at Lake Clementine, marina holders had fees raised. We also (added) a fee on Ponderosa Way. In those cases, we gave a 30-day notice. For Ponderosa, we had another 30 days of education (regarding the fees).? He estimates that parking along the river in the confluence can accommodate a couple of hundred cars. ?Depending how far you go each way, we?ve had 400 cars,? he said. Should the parking fee be imposed, it would be $10 per car and would be on a self-registration pay system, he said. In Downtown Auburn, Victory Velo owner Dan Tebbs, an avid cyclist, is concerned about the impact the fee would have on local business. ?We have a lot of people who come up from the Sacramento area and the valley to ride bikes,? he said. ?We just did a demo day in the canyon and we had people from all over ? Sacramento, Reno ? and as far away as San Diego. A lot of people come here to ride in the canyon. I just see it being a detriment ?.There are just a lot of user groups down there. I?m sure that?s why they are targeting it.? Tebbs says a lot of those visitors to the canyon find their way into Auburn where they spend money at local stores and restaurants. But a new parking fee could mean many of those visitors will start going elsewhere. ?Here?s another fee that just goes on top,? he said. ?If they could guarantee it is being used for trail maintenance or trail development, I?d be more comfortable with that. But I see that money just being absorbed into the state and being used for frivolous stuff.? But others in downtown support a parking fee for the confluence. ?I?m all for it,? said Guy Cables, owner of Sierra Outdoor Center. ?In other parking lots (in the recreation area), they have to pay $10. What happens is that everyone parks (along they confluence) and they don?t use the pay parking areas.? For Cables, it would be a lot fairer to make all the parking fee-based or make it all free. ?Upper Lake Clementine used to be free,? he said. ?All these people from out of the area would come there and trash the place ? vehicles broken into, cars stolen, trash everywhere. As soon as they imposed the fee, those problems went away. ? State Parks needs more money to maintain the whole recreation (system). They?ve had huge budget problems and this could go a long way to help solve some of the budget problems.? One way to ease the pain of paid parking is to purchase an annual day-use Golden Poppy Pass, Lynch said. Fee for the pass, which was previously $90, became $125 on May 1. According to Cables, many of his customers buy the pass. In Auburn, City Manager Bob Richardson said implementing a fee for parking along the confluence is ?an issue we thought they were no longer considering.? ?We ourselves have just learned about its possible enactment and we would like to have discussions with the Park Service prior to its implementation,? he said. Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.