Saturday, June 21, 2014

Charging for Coastal Services


As I delivered a solar power generator to Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods yesterday, to be used to bring electrical power to mountain meadows and campgrounds, I had a strange idea on how we might look at another policy decisions affecting the coast.

One of the most controversial issues facing the North Coast is the request from California's Parks and Recreation Department to install fee collection devices in parking areas along the coast to charge for automobile parking.  The fees are necessary because the state general funds  are being cut back by the Legislature, and parks are being required to raise funds locally to pay for operational costs.

Maintenance of restrooms in parking lots generates the bulk of the costs for which the parking fees are being introduced.  Elsewhere in the state, access to the coast is being maximized by installing controllable electronic fees collection devices which encourage turnover and minimize all-day parking.   Installation of these devices on the North Coast is made more difficult because few have electricity onsite.

What if we install solar power generators on top of the restrooms, and charge to use the restrooms?  My wife says the downside of this is that visitors might try to find somewhere else to relieve themselves.  One of the current arguments against charging to park is that visitors will find somewhere else to park.  So the question in my mind is: which is the greater harm?

And we create a mobile phone app which knows you bought a state parks annual pass.  Aim it at the restroom door, and it unlocks.  No onsite collection of fees.  A real incentive for buying a parks pass.  If we standardize the state, regional, and local pass privileges, all parks benefit.  And we can collect lots of good info on who is visiting our parks, and can let them now about all of our park activities in a timely manner.