2019 Proposed Recreation Fee Changes

The Shawnee National Forest (NF) is interested in hearing your comments on a proposal to begin charging new recreation fees on several sites and increasing the overnight fee at one campground.

Bell Smith

This proposal would enable the Shawnee NF to improve facilities and services at these sites and create prices consistent with comparable facilities on public and private lands.  Fees are proposed based on the level of amenities and services provided, cost of operations and maintenance, and market assessment. 

The Shawnee NF is spread across eleven counties of southern Illinois and has more than 100 outdoor recreation sites which include campgrounds, picnic areas, boat ramps, swimming areas, trailheads, and other sites.  The last increase of recreation fees in the Shawnee NF was in 2009.

Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004 (FLREA), 95% of the fees collected at recreation fee sites remain on the Forest to operate, maintain, and improve those fee sites.  Examples include trash pickup, septic and toilet pumping, painting, cleaning, addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance and needed repairs, and maintaining highly used trails, shelters and campsites affiliated with the fee sites.  Revenue from the fee sites is not redirected to non-fee sites on the Forest or to any other program.

Proposed Recreation Fee Change Locator Map

What’s Being Proposed

The Shawnee’s proposal includes instituting a standard amenity recreation fee of $5 per vehicle at six day-use sites:

  • Garden of the Gods Recreation Area - Observation trail
  • Pounds Hollow Beach
  • Johnson Creek Boat Launch
  • Pomona Boat Launch
  • Little Grand Canyon Trailhead
  • Bell Smith Springs Trailhead

Pine Ridge

In addition, the Forest proposes to raise the overnight fee at Pine Ridge Campground at Pounds Hollow for the sites that now have electric hookups.  The electric sites would increase to $15 per night, while the non-electric sites would remain $10 per night.

The Forest also proposes to create a Shawnee National Forest Annual Pass which will allow access to all day-use fee sites for a calendar year.  The proposed cost of this pass is $30, and it will grant the holder year-round use of the recreation facilities at these day-use-fee sites.  Interagency recreation passes will also be honored at these day-use sites.

Why These Sites?

The six day-use sites included in this proposal are the most highly developed on the Shawnee.  They each contain significant infrastructure – buildings and facilities that are aging and need repair and more maintenance each year.  These are also high visitation sites – the more people who use a facility, the greater the time and effort needed to clean and maintain it and the greater the wear and tear which requires repair.  The FLREA sets specific requirements for recreation sites to be eligible to charge a fee, and each of these sites easily qualifies:  toilet facilities, parking, interpretive information, picnic tables, trash containers.  They each also have additional features such as trails, picnic shelters, swimming beach, boat ramps and floating piers. 

Electrical service was added to one loop in the Pine Ridge Campground in 2014.  13 out of 35 campsites now have an electric hookup, but the site fee has not yet been adjusted to account for this new service. 

Get the Facts on the Fee Proposal for more Information

How Will the Fees Be Used?

Fees will only be utilized on recreation fee sites – not at other locations around the Forest.  They will be used to support operational and maintenance costs at the fee sites.  In particular, there will be a focus on “deferred maintenance” which is simply known issues which have not yet been repaired or replaced, such as trail repair at Garden of the Gods, addition of beach sand at Pounds Hollow, repair/repaving parking areas at several of the sites, replacing toilet structures as needed.  Fee revenue will also be utilized to improve the fee sites:  proposed projects include updating the interpretive signs, adding picnic facilities, expanding the electric service at Pine Ridge Campground to more campsites.  The funds may also be used to repair environmental damage resulting from human impacts at these sites as needed.

Fee revenue will allow the Shawnee to take better care of the fee sites but will also free up some appropriated funding currently used for fee sites to be spent on other recreation sites around the Forest.


How to Submit Comments

Comments are being accepted on these proposed fees until December 26, 2019.  Comments cards are available by clicking here or can be picked up at any Shawnee National Forest office.  Comments can be submitted in the following ways:

By mail:   Shawnee National Forest

       Attn:  Recreation Fee Proposal
                50 Highway 145 S
                Harrisburg, IL 62946


By email:  SM.FS.ShawneeRec@usda.gov   Enter on the Subject Line: “Recreation Fee Comments

By electronic response on our Contact Us page and enter on the Subject Line: “Recreation Fee Comments”.

Comments may also be dropped off at the Harrisburg, Vienna, or Jonesboro offices during normal business hours.

Next Steps

Garden of the Gods

All comments will be reviewed by the Forest and presented before the Region 9 Recreation Resource Advisory Committee (RRAC) in the spring of 2020.  Committee members represent a broad array of recreation interest groups to help ensure that the Forest Service is proposing reasonable and publicly acceptable fee changes.  The exact meeting time, location and agenda for the RRAC meeting will be announced here and through local media, and the public is welcome to attend.  If the fee proposals are approved by the Regional Forest, new fees would be implemented in summer 2020.

For More Information

If you have any questions about the fee proposal, contact the Shawnee National Forest Recreation Program Manager, at 618-253-7114.

The last public meeting for this proposal will be held November 25, 2019 in Rosiclare, Illinois.  Visit our Facebook page or events listing online for time and location for the November 25th open house.


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