***UPDATE! On September 12, 2012 Bark filed suit in federal court as part of nationwide litigation, challenging fees at numerous recreation sites including Bagby and Big Eddy, which we believe to be illegal.***
Despite a strong showing of public opposition, the Forest Service handed over management of 28 recreation sites in Mt. Hood National Forest, including the iconic Bagby Hot Springs, to private concessionaires in February 2012. These sites represented all the remaining publicly managed campgrounds in Mt. Hood National Forest. Bagby Hot Springs was the only free hot spring in the area and is one of our regions ‘ gems. Since February, California Land Management, a for profit company going by the name Mt. Hood Recreation, is now collecting fees at 28 recreation sites including a new per-person soaking fee at Bagby Hot Springs, and a parking fee at Big Eddy on the Clackamas River.
The Forest Service ceded management of these areas, citing budget constraints. However, turning our favorite places over to for-profit companies is not the only solution. Non-profit management, increased volunteer engagement, and lobbying Congress for additional recreation funding are all better possible solutions for maintaining safe and affordable access. Although Bark appealed the Forest Service’s decision to privatized Mt. Hood’s remaining concessionaire sites, the Forest Service denied our appeal in May of 2012. Bark is pursuing national litigation to hold the government accountable for keeping public lands free and accessible to the public.