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MailTribune.com
  • Parking fees have a free twist at Denman Wildlife Area

  • WHITE CITY — Denman Wildlife Area visitors will have plenty of places to skirt the new parking fees set to go into effect there in 2012.
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  • WHITE CITY — Denman Wildlife Area visitors will have plenty of places to skirt the new parking fees set to go into effect there in 2012.
    While some of the larger parking areas and access points will require the newly adopted parking sticker, myriad turnouts used by hikers and dog-walkers along borders of the wildlife area will not be subject to the program.
    "There are a lot of little parking lots where we don't even own the land that's on them," Denman Manager Clayton Barber says.
    "We'll post some signs in the designated parking areas," Barber says. "If it's not posted, it won't be enforced."
    Barber and others have plenty of logistics to work out after the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday voted on the parking-permit program for nonhunters to help pay their way at wildlife areas such as Denman that were largely bought and still are run with hunting dollars.
    Phased in over three years beginning in 2012, the permits would cost $7 a day or $22 for an annual permit. However, it would be free to hunters when they buy their statewide hunting license and Sports Pac license packages because hunters were considered already to have paid their way.
    Most wildlife areas were bought with hunting access in mind and done so with money raised federally through a tax on firearms and ammunition through the Pittman-Robertson Act.
    Bird-watchers, hikers and other so-called "nonconsumptive" users log about five times the annual visitor days at Denman than hunters do. Anglers log twice the number of user days.
    Money collected in the program will go toward improving the infrastructure of wildlife areas. ODFW officials estimate the fee would raise anywhere from as little as $661,000 to as much as $2.1 million, depending upon its popularity, says Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
    The passes would be sold through Point of Sale license outlets and through the ODFW web site, with the sales agent earning $2 per transaction. No on-site sales will be done, and the pass will be valid at all wildlife areas.
    The parking program could bring along with it a restart of the free-key program to enter locked gates at main access points to the wildlife area along Agate Road and Modoc Road.
    The gates were designed to keep illegal dumpers and others off the wildlife area by having legitimate users sign in and receive a key. So far, about 8,000 keys have been distributed, Barber says.
    If the gates' locks are re-keyed, then those who possess stickers can show ODFW employees their validation and get a new key, Barber says.
    Those without the sticker might be asked to buy one before they receive a new key because any parking behind the gates will require a pass, he says.
    Signs where the parking pass will be required at Denman access points should be in place next spring, Barber says. Electronic car-counters likely will be installed at the locked gate points to gauge pre-pass and post-pass use, he says.
    Denman will join E.E. Wilson, Ladd Marsh and Summer Lake wildlife areas on the fee program beginning in 2012.
    The Klamath, Fern Ridge, White River and the Phillip W. Schneider wildlife areas would be phased in beginning in 2013, with the Elkhorn, Columbia Basin and Jewell Meadows wildlife areas joining the fee ranks in 2014. The four remaining wildlife areas — Bridge Creek, Riverside, Wenaha and Lower Deschutes wildlife areas — were deemed to have marginal wildlife viewing use or no parking opportunities, so they were dropped from the proposed program.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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