Staff with the state Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division fielded comments last week from those who may be affected by a proposed fee change for some of the agency’s management areas.
The change could mean that for the first time, some visitors to Dawson Forest would have to pay admission to use the 10,000-acre recreational site.
Hunters and fisherman currently pay $19 a year to use certain areas managed by the DNR. Those who don’t hunt or fish, however, have been able to use the property for free.
Regina Phillips and other Dawson County residents currently use Dawson Forest for horseback riding.
She said she wouldn’t be thrilled about having to pay to use the recreational area’s trails, but would have no option.
“If they’re going to do it, I guess they’re going to do it,” she said. “It’s the only place I have to ride, so I’ll be forced to pay whatever they ask.”
Phillips and her horse, Liberty, ride once a week at the management area.
“It’s our routine,” she said.
According to the DNR’s Web site, a steering committee made up of people from around the state, has recommended the agency offer a three-day pass for $3 or a yearly pass at $19 for visitors like Phillips.
The public comment meeting was held Jan. 6 in southeastern Franklin County, where a committee laid out plans for charging visitors to help offset the state’s budget cuts.
An 18-member DNR board must first approve the measure before it would take effect. A decision could be reached in the coming weeks.
In addition to Dawson Forest, the fees would apply to management areas in Athens-Clarke, Banks and Walton counties.
Located in southwestern Dawson County, Dawson Forest is a public-use tract owned by the city of Atlanta. It is managed by the Georgia Forestry Commission and DNR.