Monday, May 13, 2013

Camping fees at Gulf Islands National Seashore go up May 17, 2013


     Camping fees at Gulf Islands National Seashore developed camping sites at Fort Pickens near Pensacola, FL and Davis Bayou, Ocean Springs, MS, will go up $6 per night beginning May 17, 2013.  In Florida the rate will go from $20 to $26 and in Mississippi from $16 to $22.
     Individuals 62 years of age or older with a Senior pass or those with an Access pass for a disability receive a 50% discount.  SEE NOTE BELOW.
     In a press release dated 5-13-13, Gulf Islands superintendent Dan Brown said a proposed hike of $10 at each location was reduced following public input.
     "Although the majority of public comments supported the proposed increases, some indicated a preference for a smaller incremental increase," Brown said in the release.
     Camping fees have not been raised since 1997, but since that time salaries at the park have increased by 53% and electrical rates and usage have increased by more than 50%, Brown said.
     After hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005) the Fort Pickens Road and the large popular campground there did not reopen until the spring of 2009.
     Gulf Island NS will retain 80% of the camping and entrance fees to help repair, improve or replace visitor facilities.  Upcoming projects include replacing the restrooms in the For Pickens campground, remodeling the Fort Pickens campground store and redesigning the entrance stations at Fort Pickens and Perdido Key to speed entry and reduce line.
     Beginning March 1 of this year, in response to budget cuts mandated by congress (sequestration), some part-time positions at the park were cut.
     Gulf Islands National Seashore is among the top ten most visited national parks.  The white sand beaches and emerald water are popular with boaters, bathers and scuba divers.  The Florida unit of the park is about 220 miles east of New Orleans.

     These passes are not widely available.  Here in New Orleans they are sold at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park but may not be available because of a security problem.  This is apparently not a problem for the Mississippi unit of Gulf Islands National Seashore which has them on hand.  Recently they have been made available over the Internet but that process will take a month, sources say.  The bottom line: Don't wait until the last minute to get one if you think you will need one.  The passes cost $10,  are only available to U.S. citizens (you have to prove it) and are good for a lifetime.    

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