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HOME arrow BLOG arrow Walton Lake Boondoogle
Walton Lake Boondoogle
Written by Scott Silver   
Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Deschutes (DNF) and Ochoco National Forests of Central Oregon are co-managed and share a common budget. Numerous recreation sites on the DNF, including trailheads, boat ramps, campgrounds, picnic areas and more require the payment of a fee as authorized by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). These sites accept both the Northwest Forest and the national America the Beautiful Passes.  No sites within the Ochoco NF accept either of these passes.

Walton Lake is a recreation site located on the Ochoco NF used by local fishermen, day-trippers and campers. Though publicly owned, access to this lake restricted to paying customers only. Walton Lake is managed by a company that describes itself in these words:

" Thousand Trails is the largest private system of RV camping and outdoor preserves in America."

Walton Lake is one of 169 publicly-owned recreation sites that are now operated by Thousand Trails.

Whereas FLREA prohibits the US Forest Service from charging entry fees, no such restriction is placed upon charging for facilities that have been effectively privatized.  Thousand Trails charges an "entry fee" at Walton Lake.

What's more, Walton Lake accepts neither the America the Beautiful or Northwest Forest Passes

It was recently reported that the Deschutes NF is considering spending $612,000 to upgrade the facilities at Walton Lake and is currently accepting public comment.

The annual budget for operation, maintenance and capital improvement for all of the developed recreation sites on the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests is $149,828. Stated in a slightly different way, the cost of improvements proposed for Walton Lake, is more than four times the annual developed recreation budget for entire forest management unit.

One might reasonably ask  "why would the Forest Service spend so much money improving a privatized facility -- a facility from which they receive almost no revenue?" I will instead ask, "from where is the Forest Service getting the money they propose spending on this privatization facility?"

I believe the correct answer is, "from the sale of federally issued recreation passes and access fees already paid by the public." My specifically, I believe the correct answer is, "from the 93 million dollars in recreation fee-demo money withheld from the forests where it was collected from fee-paying visitors and only recently made available for projects such as the one proposed at Walton Lake."

Perhaps one should now ask the question, "why would the Forest Service want to spend so much of these recreation fee receipts to improve RV camping opportunities at a privatized campground that isn't even part of the federal recreation fee program?

Great question, don't you think?


Comments (1) >>

R. Scott Tuchel said:

  This is just another example of people not thinking things through. Well meaning folks at the state and federal level have been privatizing and outsourcing management of public lands at an amazing rate over the last 8 years. So far nobody is monitoring these outsourced activities. What is worse, once a service is outsoursed the folks who once earned taxpayers dollars to take care of it suddelny are disconnected. The outcome? things like this boondoggle at Walton Lake..."whoops we forgot that thousands of folks who paid for access and maintainance of the states resourses can no longer have access...unless they pay another fee."
It is not unreasonable to charge an additional fee for special services but there needs to be complete trasparency regarding the use of taxpayers money. Likewise trasparency is essential when issuing usage permits that have caveats.
March 14, 2009
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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 February 2009 )

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