According to a recent LA Times article, The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will begin enforcing fees for use of the Upper Newport Back Bay Ecologial Preserve. This presumably includes the Back Bay trail which begins near Jamboree and ends near Newport Dunes. The trail surrounding the west side of the bay would also be affected. But how?
Let’s just assume for now that the CDFW get their way and enforcement begins. To “enforce” a fee requirement and issue tickets for those not paying up (which I assume would be the majority of users), would require officers to be patrolling the area. The lowest pay for a CDFW officer, according to their website, is $3581 per month for a full-time officer. You would need at least two officers to cover the day and evening shifts of work just for the Back Bay trail alone. Then you’ll need officers in boats patrolling the waters. So there’s two more. And since officers can’t be patrolling both sides of the bay at the same time, add a couple more just to be safe. That’s six full time officers on duty every day at a minimum monthly cost of $21,486 in salaries alone. Of course you have operating costs like vehicles, boats, and an office to work out of but let’s just start with salaries for now.
Just to pay back the officers’ salaries, we the people, would have to pony up $716.20 per day. The state is saying that the daily fee will be $4.32 per person. So that means they need 165 people to stop at a collection booth every single day. It ain’t gonna happen.
Cyclists: Would you pay four bucks to ride a few mile section of the Back Bay trail when Jamboree runs right next to it? Of course not. You’ll just avoid the toll road and go around.
Drivers: Would you pay four bucks to creep along the Back Bay with a bunch of cyclists, joggers and baby strollers? I doubt it. Throw a toll gate up and see what happens CDFW!
Kayakers / Boaters: I can definitely see charging them for parking on the west side of the bay where they typically launch their boats. But the smart ones are just going to launch elsewhere and float in. The officers, also in boats, would have to ask every single person for proof of payment. That’s not gonna happen.
Hikers: The only group of people that I would assume might pay for access is those parking their cars and going for a hike. But here’s the catch: on the Back Bay drive side, there are only a handful of parking spots and there’s free parking within a few hundred feet. So why would you pay for parking?
On the other side of the bay at the corner of Irvine Avenue and University Drive, I could see a fee collection booth placed there, but again there’s plenty of free street parking.
Ironically, it’s the hikers, who want the place to themselves without the distractions of cars and bikes, who will be most affected by these fees.
I just don’t see how, even if officers can enforce the fees, that the Department of Fish and Wildlife thinks they’re actually going to make money at the Back Bay to reduce their deficit. It is just plain fiscally irresponsible. It will only cause confusion and backlash from the public. The CDFW needs to think of other ways to reduce their operating costs.