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'Tourist tax:' Oregon State Park campsites to cost 25% more for out-of-state RV travelers

The fees apply to everything from small pop-up trailers to Airstreams to motorhomes. It does not apply to tent campsites, yurts or cabins.
Credit: Andrey Armyagov - stock.adobe.co
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OREGON, USA — Tourists from outside the state will pay a little more beginning Jan. 1 if they're planning to camp in a recreational vehicle at Oregon's state parks.

Senate Bill 794, passed last session by the state legislature and signed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in June, imposes a 25% surcharge on non-residents who camp in RV sites at 56 campgrounds from the Oregon Coast to the Wallowa Mountains.

The fees apply to everything from small pop-up trailers to Airstreams to motorhomes. It does not apply to tent campsites, yurts or cabins.

Roughly 60% of state park campsites are designed for RVs, offering some combination of water, power and sewer hookups. They currently cost $24 to $40 per night, but beginning next year, they will cost $30 to $50 for non-residents.

The spike won't affect campsites on federal lands, such as U.S. Forest Service campgrounds.

Competition for RV sites — and campsites overall — has risen dramatically in Oregon over the past decade, particularly at the Coast.

Oregon has long toyed with the idea of a so-called "tourist tax" at state parks. Last year, during early stages of the pandemic, Oregon imposed a similar surcharge on out-of-state campers who reserved any type of campsite with the idea of discouraging travel to the state.

That version of the tourist tax was repealed, but Sen. Kathleen Taylor's bill targeting RV campers got momentum during the 2021 legislative session and passed the Oregon Senate 23 to 7 and the House 49 to 10.

One reason for taxing out-of-state RVs is because Oregonians already pay an extra licensing fee to register recreational vehicles with the DMV. The annual cost ranges from $86 for a small trailer to $388 for a mammoth 45-foot motorhome. About half of that money goes to state parks.

"The policy makes sense because Oregonians already have skin in the game by paying RV fees upfront," Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Chris Havel said. "So it makes sense for non-residents to pay a little more for a site, since Oregonians have already paid into the system."

The new fees are expected to generate a healthy chunk of cash for OPRD, bringing in an estimated $1.6 million for July 2021-June 2023 budget period and $2.1 million for the July 2023-June 2025 period.

That might seem like a drop in the bucket for an agency with a $260 million budget, but it is significant, Havel said.

"The fees people pay to camp or visit a park are not actually enough to run a park, so any time you have extra money for those little repairs that pop up — from fixing a showers or toilet here and there — it's very meaningful," Havel said. "Our facilities are aging and the cost to repair them is always going up."

After that, the new price for out-of-state RV campsites will go into effect at some point in 2022 — although it's not entirely clear exactly when.

Many Western states have similar fee increases for non-residents. Montana, for example, has free entry for residents but a $8 fee for tourists, while charging an extra $10 to $12 for cabins, yurts and tipis. Idaho and Washington also have upticks for non-residents and just about every state has higher fishing license fees for out-of-staters.

"The challenge now is figuring out when a person makes a reservation online or walks into a park, how do we figure out which fee they're paying?" Havel said. "Other states have found a way to do it, so we'll learn from them and hopefully have something easy and straightforward for next season."


Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter, photographer and videographer in Oregon for 13 years. Urness can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.

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