Of the Baker City Herald

The Baker County Parks Board will return to Richland Tuesday to hammer out fee changes at Hewitt and Holcomb parks.

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at Richland City Hall.

Last month's initial meeting between the parks board and Richland-area residents was a rancorous affair, county parks director Lorrie Harvey said.

The major change was a proposed $250 annual fee for commercial operators, such as fishing guides.

There currently isn't a fee for commercial operators. Harvey said the proposed permit fee has been lowered to $70 based on feedback at last month's meeting in Richland.

The permit holder would be allowed one reserved parking space at the parks.

The parks board believes that boats used for commercial purposes should pay some kind of permit fee, Harvey said.

andquot;They're making a profit at a county park,andquot; she said. andquot;The goal is for the parks to pay for themselves.andquot;

Under the revised proposal being presented Tuesday night, a season pass for day use at the parks will go up $10, from $25 to $35. Night use of the parks which now costs $2 nightly would be free if the proposed rates are adopted.

A few fees remain unchanged under the proposal. An RV space will still cost $14 with electrical and water hook-up, $11 without. Tent fees remain at $11.

The parks board proposes that season passes will be sold between Dec. 1 and April 30 only.

Fees for parking and launching boats, which are now $2 for day use, $4 for night use, and $6 for 24-hour use, would instead be changed to a flat $4 fee for 24-hour use.

While park receipts have been steadily increasing at Hewitt and Holcomb parks, so have expenses. In general, the increasing revenues can be attributed to consistently high water levels at Brownlee Reservoir. During the last three drought years, Idaho Power Co. has not had to implement the flood control practice of releasing water in the reservoir.

That's been good for fishing, and good for the parks department's bottom line.

Park revenues since 1999 have been up about 78 percent, from about $60,000 to more than $107,000. Expenses have climbed too, although not quite so dramatically. They're up about 56 percent, from about $57,000 in 1999 to $89,000 in 2003.

With the current snowpack at 99 percent of average, the concern is that next spring some of Brownlee's water may have to be released for flood control, for the first time in four years. Lower reservoir levels generally lead to lower parks receipts, just at the time when the county plans extensive park improvements. Those will come through grants and through money paid by Idaho Power under its settlement agreement with the county.

Once the parks board has heard from Richland-area residents, they'll give Baker City residents the same opportunity, at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, at the Sumpter Valley Railroad Depot off Broadway Street west of 10th Street.

County commissioners will probably take up the fee changes during their Jan. 21 meeting, Harvey said.