TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will begin charging campers to stake their tents at public-access areas along the Illinois River.
The Echota, Edmondson, No Head, Peavine, Round Hollow and Todd campgrounds will be affected by the change, which goes into effect Friday night, OSRC Administrator Ed Fite said.
The public-access sites will offer tent pads, cookers, fire rings and lantern posts at a cost of $8 per night per tent. An OSCR ranger will check on all the public-access sites.
``We're hoping to recoup some of the cost of maintaining these areas,'' Fite said Wednesday. ``We're not anticipating making a lot of money.''
About 400,000 people visit the recreational site each summer to float, swim, fish or hike, Fite said. For years, campers could set up a tent anywhere they wanted and stay as long as they liked.
``We've had a couple of individuals locally that voiced concern that we were displacing them,'' Fite said. ``We had some people who would come to the access area and stay all summer.''
But nearby canoe operators are happy with the camping fee.
``I think it's about time,'' Peyton's Place owner Archie Peyton said. ``It's about the last place I know of where you can camp for free.''
The camping fee is in line with what is charged at state parks this year, Fite noted. Tent sites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Scenic Rivers Commission approved the camping fees several years ago, but state legislators didn't vote for the rule until last year, said Peyton, who is an OSRC member.
Peyton said his counterparts along the Illinois River agree with the move and many believe it will help their own camping businesses.
``I have more to offer,'' Peyton said.