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Paying $5 for a hike or a picnic at Anthony Lake, or to just put a boat in the water for a few hours has upset many campground visitors in this remote corner of northeastern Oregon.
"To have to pay there is silly," said John Hoskins of Baker City, a regular visitor to the lake nestled in the Elkhorn Mountains. "We've been going up there without a charge for years."
Figuring out whether you are obligated to pay the $5 fee is not easy. Fishing for several hours would trigger the fee, but not stopping to use the outhouse or have a quick sandwich, campground managers say.
It is the first summer that either the U.S. Forest Service or one of its concessionaires has charged a day-use fee at its Anthony Lakes Complex, which consists of the campgrounds, picnic tables and other amenities at Anthony Lake and its two smaller neighbors to the north, Grande Ronde and Mud lakes.
The Forest Service allows the concessionaire, Aud Di Campground Services of Cedar City, Utah, to charge a day-use fee because the company has taken over from the Forest Service the task of cleaning outhouses and emptying garbage cans, said Dan Ermovick, recreation planner for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
The imposition of the $5 day-use fee has prompted quite a few questions from visitors, said Loren Eddy, a regional manager for Aud Di Campground Services.
The Wallowa-Whitman earlier this year granted the company a five-year permit to operate the Anthony Lakes Complex and the Union Creek Complex at Phillips Reservoir about 16 miles southwest of Baker City.
Gary Dielman of Baker City, another regular visitor, criticized the Forest Service for failing to alert the public about the new charge and solicit opinions about the fee.
"It's certainly terrible public relations on the part of the Forest Service," Dielman said.
But the day-use fee is "not set in stone," Eddy said.
"We'll be reviewing the whole scope of things at the end of the season," Eddy said. "We'll see how things went and decide whether we need to adjust anything."
Eddy acknowledged that the company didn't advertise the day-use fee as widely as it could have earlier this summer.
"Early on there weren't as many signs as there are now," he said. "We're trying to explain it a little better as we go along."
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