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story.lead_photo.caption If the water level on the Buffalo River isn’t high, campers can set up sites on the gravel bars. - Photo by Bryan Hendricks

Administrators at the Buffalo National River want to increase fees at some campsites.

The park last raised camping fees in 2013, said Cassandra Johannsen, a park ranger.

"Camping fees at Buffalo National River are used to pay seasonal staff to maintain camping facilities, and for updates to facilities like hiking trails and amphitheaters," she said.

The park's campsites range from primitive with just vault toilets, no water and no designated sites, to developed areas with electric and water hookups for recreational vehicle camping, according to a news release from Johannsen.

After a campground comparability study, the park has proposed increasing camping fees at the following locations:

• Sites with water and electric at Buffalo Point Campground: from $22 to $30 a night for up to six people.

• All sites at Tyler Bend Campground and walk-in tent sites at Buffalo Point Campground: from $16 to $20 a night for up to six people.

• Primitive sites (without electricity or showers) at Steel Creek, Kyle's Landing, Ozark, Carver, and Rush campgrounds: from $12 to $20 a night for up to six people (up to four stock animals at Steel Creek Horse Camp).

• No changes are proposed for reserving pavilions; those fees would remain $25 at Ozark and $50 at Tyler Bend and Buffalo Point.

• The fee structure would be revised for group campsites at Buffalo Point and Tyler Bend: from $3 per person per night to a flat rate of $50 per group per night (up to 25 people per site).

• Other campgrounds would continue to allow free camping where no amenities are provided: Erbie, Woolum, South Maumee and Spring Creek.

The park also proposes to allow some tent and horse campsites at Steel Creek Campground and walk-in tent and drive-in sites at Tyler Bend Campground to be reserved in advance on the recreation.gov website. Reserving sites through the website allows visitors to pay by debit or credit card. Those without reservations must pay by cash or check.

Buffalo National River provides a 50 percent discount on campsite fees for Interagency Senior and Access pass cardholders. More information is available online at https://store.usgs.gov or at park headquarters in Harrison, Steel Creek Ranger Station, Tyler Bend Visitor Center or Buffalo Point Ranger Station.

Adam Higinbothom, sales floor manager at the Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville, said the proposed prices don't sound high to him.

"Compared to other campgrounds, that's cheap," he said. "I think $20 is very reasonable, especially for a national recreation area."

Johannsen said camping at Acadia National Park in Maine costs $22 per night for primitive tent sites and $40 per night with water and electric. At Yellowstone National Park, the rate is $15 per night for primitive tent sites and $47 for full hookups, she said.

Johannsen said backcountry camping is free in the Buffalo National River. Backcountry camping is defined as being one-half mile from any developed area (campground, parking lot, trailhead).

Johannsen said the fee study began about a year ago, when Kevin Cheri was still superintendent of the Buffalo National River. He retired in December and Mark Foust became superintendent in July.

The Buffalo National River attracted more than 1.5 million visitors in 2017 and contributed $71.1 million to the local economy, according to the news release.

Comments on the proposed fee increases can be given at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/buff2019fees, emailed to buff_superintendent@nps.gov, or a paper comment form can be picked up from park headquarters in Harrison, Steel Creek Ranger Station, Tyler Bend Visitor Center or Buffalo Point Ranger Station.

The public comment period will continue until Sept. 5. The park will review all feedback, finalize the proposal and determine how, or if, to implement the proposed changes, according to the release.

Metro on 08/12/2018

Print Headline: Study points to need for higher Buffalo National River campsite charges, park says

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