By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
People wishing to take advantage of recreation in Beaver Creek Park will have to weather increased user fees.
The cost of park permits have gone up for the first time since the early 1990s, Hill County park superintendent Bernie Golie said today.
The fee for Hill County residents has risen from $20 annually to $25. Out-of-county residents will have to pay $40 for an annual permit, compared to $30 last year.
Those wanting to reserve a spot to hold an event at one of 10 large campgrounds in Beaver Creek Park will be hit the hardest under the new fee scale. The cost of renting one of the spaces has doubled from $20 to $40. The increase applies to the Elks, Rotary, Jaycees, Lions and HPPA campgrounds, which are popular sites for family reunions and company picnics.
The new fees also include an increased fine for those caught without a permit. In addition to buying the permit at regular cost, people will have to pay a $15 fine. In previous years the fine has been $10, Golie said.
The price hikes reflect a new state tax targeting the tourism industry and a need to keep up with maintenance costs, Golie said.
"It's just the price of keeping things up anymore," he said. "It's expensive. You have to buy labor and equipment and pay for services. Just having Dumpster service in the park costs $3,400 a year."
Golie said another major cost the county incurs is replacing wooden campground benches, which have become popular fuel for the fire pits.
"Every year we lose a bunch of tables," he said. "I can't tell you how many have been burned."
The tax is a 7 percent tourism taxtacked onto hotel rooms and rental cars during the last legislative session, partially to ease a budget shortfall. The tax also applies to camping areas, meaning the cost of permits had to increase, Golie said.
The state tax was previously 4 percent, and Hill County just paid the tax from permit fees, he said. When the tax was increased to 7 percent, the county could no longer afford to cover the cost and had to pass it on to park users, he said.
Those caught using the park without a permit can be issued a ticket at the discretion of the officer, resulting in another fine in Justice Court, Golie said.
The $15 fine is an extra incentive to get people to buy the permits, Golie said. The parks superintendent said he believes that 10 to 20 percent of those using the park do so without buying permits.
"Most people are real good about buying permits," he said. "Then there are some people that try to dodge you all year. The park permits have been in use since 1988 and we still have people saying they didn't know they needed it."
Permits can be purchased at Stromberg's Sinclair, Bing N Bob's, the Hill County Courthouse, Mel's Foods, Short Stop and the Beaver Creek Park office at the Kiwanis Campground.