By Craig Day, The News On 6
CHEROKEE COUNTY, OK -- Fun in the sun along the Illinois River will soon cost a little more money. Starting this holiday weekend, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will begin charging fees at public access areas.
The state's budget crunch is to blame.
Michelle Hensley, her sister Sue and their kids loved to come to the Illinois River. The Tahlequah residents love the beauty, the laughter, and the smiles.
Another thing they like is that it's free fun, but it won't be much longer. The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will begin charging user fees at public access areas along the river.
"The user fee will be $4," said Commission Director Ed Fite.
People 62 and over, fishermen, and folks just hanging out for a little while won't be charged. People with disabilities pay half.
Everyone else has to pay.
Per day camping fees are also going up from $10 to $12 for the first car. Each additional car will be $4.
Scenic Rivers Commission Director Ed Fite says he hates to do it, but the state cut the agency's funding 14 percent last year and another 6 percent for the coming fiscal year.
To make matters more challenging, the commission is getting less money from river outfitters because of a change in the formula for fees collected from them. The higher flat rate per boat is actually generating less in fees compared to the previous lower flat rate combined with a per person fee.
As for the Hensleys, the fees mean they probably won't come as often. They'll enjoy their time along the river while it's free for one more day.
The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission is also considering user fees on privately owned canoes and rafts to go into effect in November. Local land owners along with river would be exempt.
Youth groups can also get a half price discount on user fees by doing 25 hours of community service along the river.