Annual beach passes increase $70

For some, living near the beach in Orange County is a priceless luxury.

But actually going to it — by car, anyway — is about to get a little pricier.

The state Department of Parks and Recreation announced this month that annual vehicle passes at state parks will increase from $125 to $195. Among the locations affected are six in Orange County: Corona del Mar, Bolsa Chica, Huntington, San Clemente and Doheny state beaches, and Crystal Cove State Park.

The raises for the vehicle passes and other annual passes takes effect May 1.

The cost for single-day use and camping fees will remain the same in most areas, although some regional superintendents may adjust fees for specific parks, spokesman Roy Stearns said.

The department cut $11 million from its budget last year and expects an identical cut this year. The higher charges are meant to curb some of that loss and alleviate the burden on some of the parks remaining open.

Stearns said he hopes the increased fees will bring in between $1 million and $1.5 million in added revenue. The state was set to close 70 parks in July, although donors and partners have come through with funding to keep 16 of them open.

"This is truly one more way to achieve some additional revenue," Stearns said. "Is it enough to keep a park from closing? No. It's a small amount of money, but we're hoping to mitigate the number of service reductions we've been doing all across the state."

The department, he said, has reduced bathroom cleaning, open hours, garbage pickup and other services.

None of the parks slated for closure are in Orange County. The area's coastal parks are among the state's most profitable, according to Stearns.

"SoCal beaches get some of the highest visitorship, therefore some of the highest revenue," he said. "Those places come closest to breaking even."

Vanessa Batten, a stay-at-home mother from Fountain Valley, said she had bought a pass the last three years and that it made for perfect family trips.

"I have my kids, and this is part of why we live here, to come down and enjoy it," she said. "And I guess if [paying more] means keeping parks open and available, it's worth it to some extent."

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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