The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is taking public comment on proposed fee increases for multiple recreation sites and rentals, as well as the opening of three new rental cabins.
Fees would increase at 25 campgrounds, 19 rental cabins and two group use sites under the proposal. In addition, Indian Meadows, Nevada Creek and Mergenthaler cabins, if approved, will open for public rental.
The proposed fee increases come as part of a regional look at site fees, maintenance costs and an effort to charge similarly for comparable sites.
“The combination of funding trends, increasing costs to maintain these sites, and higher demand for quality recreation experiences, has resulted in the need to reevaluate the management and associated costs of some of sites,” Forest Supervisor Bill Avey said in a statement. “It’s been at least 10 years, and in some areas closer to 20 years, since the forest has increased its recreation fees. The changes we’re proposing range from $2 to $45 increases, and will help the Forest achieve more consistent pricing for sites with similar levels of amenities and capacity.”
Not all recreation sites on the forest are proposed for increases. The forest says it has invested in items such as potable water, increased recreation site capacity and amenities at group sites, improved toilet facilities, new picnic tables and other infrastructure.
Proposed campgrounds could see bumps from $2 to $10 and cost $10-$15 to camp.
As for group use sites, Aspen Grove Picnic Area near the Blackfoot River would increase $20 to $50 and the Quigley Group Use Site on MacDonald Pass would institute a $50 fee.
Cabin rental increases are proposed from $5 to $45, costing $45 to $65 to rent.
The Forest Service also proposes offering two of its administrative cabins for public rental.
“Those cabins have been used for things like trail crews and administration, but now we’re finding these cabins serve the public really well for recreation, so we’re starting to develop more of these sites into recreational opportunities for the public,” said Rory Glueckert, the project lead for the Forest Service. He added that 95 percent of the rental fees go back into the sites for maintenance or upgrades.
The Indian Meadows Cabin is located north of Lincoln and would cost $65 to rent. The cabin provides access to the Scapegoat Wilderness and is typically only accessible to passenger vehicles by late May.
The Nevada Creek Cabin is located in the Nevada Creek drainage and is accessed from Highway 141 north of Avon. The cabin can accommodate up to six, with hand-pumped water available, and would cost $45 to rent.
“The accessible forest landscape here provides abundant opportunities for local residents and visitors to enjoy our wildlife, history and scenery,” according to the Forest Service’s description. “Roads and trails support a balance of motorized and non-motorized recreation including: hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, OHV riding, snowmobiling and driving for pleasure.”
The third cabin proposed for rental was recently acquired by the Forest Service through a donation. The Mergenthaler Cabin is located in the Marsh Creek area, northwest of Helena and west of Canyon Creek, and would cost $60 to rent.
“Located in the heart of Montana, the Mergenthaler Cabin is surrounded by a wealth of recreational opportunities,” the Forest Service’s description says. “This is a newly acquired facility that can sleep up to 8 and features propane lighting.”
More information on individual site fee proposals and to comment is available at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/r1recfee. Comments can also be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, ATTN: Rory Glueckert, 2880 Skyway Drive, Helena, MT 59602.
This story has been edited to reflect the correct location of the Mergenthaler Cabin.