Recreation managers at the Shawnee National Forest are interested in hearing comments from area residents on a proposal for changes to the recreation fees on the forest.

These changes include an increase in camping fees at Pine Ridge Campground, the addition of new fees at certain day use areas across the forest and a Forest Annual Pass.

The proposed camping fee at the Pine Ridge Campground in Pounds Hollow Recreation Area in Gallatin County may be raised from $10 per night to $15 per night for campsites that include an electrical hookup. Non-electric campsites will remain at $10 per night.

In 2014, Shawnee National Forest installed electrical outlet pedestals in 13 campsites in the campground, making Pine Ridge the only forest service-managed campground on the Shawnee National Forest with electrical service.

The camping fee has not been adjusted since the addition of this amenity. The increase will ensure the fees remain comparable to similar public and private campground facilities in the area and will provide funds to maintain and eventually extend the infrastructure associated with the electric hookups.

A day-use fee of $5 per vehicle is proposed for:

• Garden of the Gods Recreation Area - Observation trail

• Pounds Hollow Recreation Area - Swimming beach

• Johnson Creek Recreation Area - Boat launch

• Pomona Boat Launch on Cedar Lake

• Little Grand Canyon Trailhead

• And, Bell Smith Springs Interpretive Site

These popular developed day use sites are highly developed day use sites with significant infrastructure.

They provide amenities and special opportunities that are beyond those typical of Shawnee National Forest day use sites. Fees will be utilized to maintain and improve the sites.

A Shawnee National Forest annual pass will also be created which will grant the holder year-round use of the recreation facilities at these day-use-fee sites. The cost for the annual pass is proposed to be $30; final cost will be determined through this public comment process and further analysis.

"We have completed several significant projects at these sites in recent years, but the needs just keep growing, especially after the solar eclipse put southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest 'on the map' in 2017. These fee changes will help us provide quality recreation facilities to meet the growing demand," said the Shawnee recreation staff officer.

The majority of funds collected at recreation sites, 95 percent, remain in the forest to operate, maintain and improve the facilities and programs at the recreation sites.

The new fee proposals will also be posted in the Federal Register. In addition, the proposed fee changes have been posted at each of the recreation sites involved, forest offices, and through social media, as well as on the forest's website.

The public comment period is set to end by close of business on Friday, Dec. 6. To ensure comments are considered, please send your comments no later than the above date.

Comments can by submitted via mail or hand delivery to the Shawnee National Forest Supervisor's Office, 50 Ill. 145 S, Harrisburg, IL 62946.

Alternatively, comments can be emailed to mailroom_r9_shawnee@fs.fed.us and put in subject line "Recreation Fee Proposal" or submitted through the comment form found on the forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/shawnee.

The Shawnee National Forest also plans to host several open house meetings across southern Illinois in the upcoming months to allow interested individuals to ask questions and provide input regarding this proposal.

All new fee proposals will be presented before the Region 9 Recreation Resource Advisory Committee, or RRAC. The public is welcome to attend and comment at all advisory committee meetings.

The next RRAC meeting is expected to be held in the spring of 2020; the exact meeting time, location and agenda will be announced on the Shawnee National Forest website and through local media.

For more information or to provide comments about any of these new fee proposals, contact the Shawnee Recreation Program Manager at 618-253-7114.

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