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Popular trailheads could get new costs; permits mulled for high-altitude recreation

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - New fees are being considered at trailheads throughout the Mount Hood National Forest, including at Timberline Lodge. Officials are considering a fee hike to, well, hike within the Mount Hood National Forest.

Public input is sought on a series of new and increased charges for parking and camping at the 26 developed recreation sites on the national forest, while also implementing a new climbing permit for anyone traveling above 9,500 feet in the spring and summer.

"We recognize how important these sites are to people," said Meta Loftsgaarden, Mount Hood forest supervisor. "The fees collected will help offset the increased costs of maintenance at these sites."

"During this public input period, we want to hear feedback and other ideas to help improve services for our visitors," he added.

The proposal adds day-use and camping fees onto sites that currently are free to visit. If they go into effect, the Timberline Lodge Trailheads would cost $5 per day; Little Fan Creek and Peg Leg picnic sites would both have $5 usage fees; and Little John Sno-Park, Badger Lake, Fifteen Mile and White River Station campgrounds would all cost $10, to name a few. A full list of proposed changes is available online.

Officials tout the new fees as a way to ensure clean restrooms and trash collection. The influx of dollars would also fund large scale maintenance and improvement projects.

The new climbing permit would be for anyone venturing up the mountain from April through July at high altitudes. It would fund additional climbing rangers to have better patrols and resources protections.

"Every year around 10,000 people climb Mt. Hood," Loftsgaarden said. "The climbing permit will help both the Forest and our search and rescue partners improve safety for climbers while protecting the natural resources of this iconic place."

The proposed climbing permit would not limit or cap on how many are issued daily. The new permits would be required starting January 2024.

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