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MailTribune.com
  • Parking permit scofflaws are in ODFW's sights

  • Visitors to Oregon's state-run wildlife areas, such as White City's Denman Wildlife Area, will go to great lengths to avoid paying for $7 daily or $22 annual parking permits.
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  • Visitors to Oregon's state-run wildlife areas, such as White City's Denman Wildlife Area, will go to great lengths to avoid paying for $7 daily or $22 annual parking permits.
    In most locations, many visitors intentionally park just outside the permit zones to sidestep the fee. At the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area outside of Corvallis, visitors go to the extreme.
    "There is a user group there that has a blog telling people where to park to avoid the fees," says Keith Kohl, wildlife area program coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "On a couple trips there, about half the cars I saw were doing it."
    But the days of thumbing it to Da Man are about to end.
    The ODFW has proposed tweaking its wildlife area parking program to include vehicles parked by anyone entering any of the 12 wildlife areas, including Denman, where parking permits are required.
    That would include those who park on public road shoulders and walk in, as some Denman visitors do by parking along Agate Road outside of the marked parking zones.
    The change is scheduled to be discussed and voted on Friday by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission when it meets in Salem. As currently drafted, the proposal would go into effect late next week if adopted.
    The proposal is a way to add more equity to a program, Kohl says.
    "We get telephone calls from people who buy the permits asking why other people parking their cars can get away with this," Kohl says.
    The parking-permit program was developed to find a way for non-hunting visitors to help fund the wildlife areas that were bought with excise taxes on guns and ammunition and run with money from hunting license fees.
    Money raised from the program is earmarked for improvements at wildlife areas, such as improved signing, infrastructure and trail maintenance.
    Before 2012, the only parking permit needed at a wildlife area was on the Columbia River's Sauvie Island, which is by far the most visited of the 16 state-run wildlife areas. It worked so well at Sauvie Island that the commission in 2012 decided to phase in an expansion of it.
    The commission set the parking permit prices at $5 a day or $20 per year, with a $2 surcharge added for the seller. So-called "non-consumptive users," mostly birdwatchers, hikers and anglers, would have to buy permits to park at or enter wildlife area access points.
    Oregonians who buy hunting licenses get a parking permit as well.
    Statistics show that Oregonians appear to be increasingly skirting the permit process.
    The agency sold 819 daily and 2,322 annual permits last year, Kohl says. But with two-thirds of 2014 done, sales are down to 579 daily and 2,060 annual permits, Kohl says.
    While sales are down, those getting the $75 ticket for parking without a permit are up at Denman and statewide.
    Oregon State Police troopers who patrol Denman issued 29 tickets in 2013, but have issued 38 tickets through July 13, Kohl says.
    Statewide, citations totalled 395 in 2013 and 322 tickets so far in 2014, Kohl says.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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