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Northern California beach parking fee fight gets heated

A California beach is seen in this undated file photo.
May 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Beachgoers in parts of the Northern California shoreline are used to parking for free, but the state is looking to change that.

The state parks system is considering adding parking fees to parts in search of new revenue. Out of California's 1,100 miles of beach, a third is controlled by the state Department of Parks and Recreation. Officials say they're under legislative orders to seek new sources of revenue and that a revamp of the parking payment structure is necessary to keep beaches open and to fund deferred maintenance.

Northward excursions to the Pacific have traditionally been free. Save for a few lots that charge, the rugged Sonoma coast north of San Francisco has long been a spot where visitors pull over on the highway to dip in the ocean.

So when state parks wanted to install 15 machines that would collect $8 per car, the Sonoma County zoning board shot it down at the behest of residents. The state protested and the county board of supervisors will hear the appeal next month.

Park officials say they should be allowed to charge fees in section of the Sonoma coast where there are garbage cans, restrooms and picnic areas to maintain. A similar effort last year to charge for parking at some Mendocino County beaches was also met with local opposition.

In addition to certain Northern California beaches, the state is also considering hiking rates to visit popular beaches south of Los Angeles during peak periods like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Even though the department needs money, opponents fear these options will limit beach access. Also, environmentalists say it's akin to monetizing the coast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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