In the mid 1990s, due to increasing pressures from public use, the recreation program focused much of its resources on managing problems at near urban recreation sites. At these high-use sites, vandalism, rowdyism and overcrowding had escalated to the point where corrective action needed to be taken. Issues, such as the need for enforcing camping rules, site supervision, and additional maintenance services, required that some recreation sites be redesigned to address these concerns.
These new challenges also came at a time when government was rethinking funding allocations for various ministry programs. The recreation program began to experience significant reductions in funding, and for the first time was faced with the possibility of having to close down recreation sites and trails if additional funding sources could not be found. Public opposition to this possibility was rapid and pronounced. Government decided to continue the program, but directed the Forest Service to develop a self funding model.
In 1999, the Forest Service introduced modest camping fees to help offset the costs of maintaining recreation sites and trails. Two types of camping fees were introduced – a camping pass, which could be used at all regular service campgrounds, and an enhanced campground fee, which was charged at campgrounds that provided additional services, such as security or higher levels of maintenance..
Camping passes were available on an annual or single-night basis. Annual camping passes cost $27 ($22 for seniors) and allowed visitors to camp at all regular service Forest Service campgrounds for a period of one year. Single-night camping passes cost $8 and allowed overnight camping for one night only. The camping pass generated approximately $500,000 annually to support the recreation program. Approximately 80% of the funds collected were directed to the local forest district to maintain and improve the campgrounds and facilities.
Enhanced campground fees were charged at a limited number of Forest Service campgrounds, generally high-use sites which were located close to major urban centres. The enhanced campground fee was $10 per night. Campers with an annual camping pass paid a discounted rate of $5 per night. Persons with disabilities and seniors also paid a discounted rate of $5 per night. Funds generated from enhanced campground fees were retained by the campground operator to pay for the additional services provided at the site.
The camping pass program operated from 1999 to 2001. The program was cancelled at the end of the 2001 camping season because of the high costs and staff time required to administer, monitor and enforce the program.