Locals Oppose Barlow Park Fees
By Ty Walker
Visitors have enjoyed Barlow Wayside Park free of charge since its inception in 2009, more than 14 years ago. So it came as a surprise when Clackamas County Parks announced a fee this past summer.
Opposition to the fee has come from community volunteer groups, namely the Mount Hood Stewardship Council. MHSC Chairman Mitch Williams said the fee announcement was made abruptly with no public participation.
The fee went up “significantly, from $0 to $8 a day,” Williams said. “With the amount of community investment, time and money through grants and donations, probably more people think it should not be a fee site at all.”
Volunteers helped develop the park and built about 90 percent of it, Williams said. They continue to maintain the park trails and bridges daily under a partnership with Clackamas County. The Bureau of Land Management paid for, built and maintains the $40,000 toilet.
He said the MHSC has obtained over $85,000 in grants and donations over the years for natural history interpretation, the road entrance sign, invasive species eradication and other structural improvements. There are thousands of dollars of documented hours from in-kind labor over the years.
Located 11 miles east of Sandy, Barlow Wayside Park has 1.5 miles of hiking trails winding through 100 acres of scenic forestland. The park is located near what was once the Barlow Road segment of the Oregon Trail.
The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners establishes park fees and reviews them on an annual basis, Clackamas County Parks And Forestry Manager Tom Riggs said.
“The decision to expand parking fees was not undertaken lightly.” Riggs said in an email to Williams. “However, it was necessary to address the increasing costs of maintaining and operating a county parks system that relies heavily on park user fees.”
The Board Of Commissioners made the decision to charge $8 for a single day-use pass or $55 for an annual pass at Barlow Wayside Park. Williams said the MHSC would be willing to meet the county halfway and support a $4 day pass and $30 year pass.
Still other public complainants oppose any fee, Williams said.
Riggs said in his email:
“We recognize and appreciate that Barlow Wayside Park has benefited greatly from the volunteer efforts of the Mount Hood Stewardship Council, community support, and our partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, and that the ongoing costs to the county are small in comparison to some of our other park locations.”
MHSC argues that volunteer labor helps minimize Barlow Park’s operating costs compared to other parks in the Clackamas County system. Other parks have more amenities and employ daily full-time and seasonal paid staff.