The U.S. Forest Service is collecting public input on a plan to increase the fees at developed campgrounds in the Green Mountain National Forest.
The proposal includes the campgrounds in the southern Manchester District, as well as in the Rochester District in central Vermont. The proposed fee changes for specific locations were laid out in two news releases issued last month.
The U.S. Forest Service says there has been a steep increase in the number of visitors to the campgrounds, some of which have no fees for spending a night.
Manchester District Recreation Program Manager Emily Lauderdale says some of the money will be used to upgrade the facilities at the most popular campgrounds.
"I think we're just trying to cater to a variety of different recreational desires that our visitors have," Lauderdale says. "And one of those is camping with amenities such as water and toilets."
Lauderdale also said the Forest Service wants to make some sites more accessible to people of all abilities, and she says the popular Grout Pond campground could receive upgrades if the proposed fee increase is approved.
"I think Grout Pond is an excellent site to be looking at those opportunities to open up pieces of the forest to visitors with all sorts of accessibility levels," she said.
If the new fees are approved Lauderdale says people would be able to reserve sites, and upgrades would be made to campgrounds throughout the Green Mountains.
On a recent sunny, late summer day, John Morgan, of Bennington, had a prime camping spot right on the pond.
His canoe bobbed in the water, and Morgan was enjoying an adult beverage. Across the pond early fall color blazed on the hillside.
Morgan comes out here at least once a year, and he admits that it's easy to choose Grout Pond knowing it's free.
But Morgan says a camping fee wouldn't force him to change his annual visit to Grout Pond.
"It's quiet, beautiful, and it's not like the other campsites where you're stacked on each other," Morgan says. "That's the reason why we come up here is because it's nice and private, and so I think it's fair to charge $16 a night."
The Forest Service says 80 to 95 percent of the fees that are collected are invested locally to operate, maintain and improve the area.
Comments on the proposed fee increases are being accepted up until October 11th, and a regional advisory committee will make the final determinations.
Comments on the fee increases in the Manchester District can be sent to Emily Lauderdale, Green Mountain National Forest, 2538 Depot Street, Manchester, Vermont 05255.
And for the Rochester District, send comments to Holly Knox, Green Mountain National Forest, 99 Ranger Road, Rochester, Vermont 05767.