Montaña de Oro may start charging visitors if supervisors approve contract change

Spooner's Cove in Montaña de Oro.
Spooner's Cove in Montaña de Oro. The Tribune

Visitors and campers at Montaña de Oro State Park could be one step closer to paying for the privilege, if the Board of Supervisors approves a change in its contract with the state Tuesday.

The threat of having to pay has long hung over the spectacular 8,500-acre collection of meadows, canyons and bluffs south of Los Osos. But contract language between the state and the county has prevented the state from charging admission.

It is that language that the board could modify.

Should the change go through, it probably would not take effect for at least a year and probably longer, said Nick Franco, State Parks superintendent. There is a long permit process that would include getting approval for an entry kiosk.

Based on earlier discussions, chances are that admission would be $5 per vehicle, Franco said, with a yearly pass costing $25 to $30. Those who hike or bike into the park would not have to pay, he said.

Many county residents, especially those in Los Osos, have objected to charging admission to the park in their backyard.

However, others note that state, regional, county and city parks up and down California charge for use, and many consider a $5 entry fee for one of the gems of the State Parks system a bargain.

By comparison, admission to either of San Luis Obispo County’s chief parks, Santa Margarita Lake and Lopez Lake, is $10 daily and $100 annually.

County Supervisor Bruce Gibson said he believes charging admission could bring in $300,000 to $500,000 a year, and that money could be confined to local use, rather than being sent to disappear in state coffers.

The board meeting begins at 9 a.m. ­at the County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo.