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Montaña de Oro won't be free much longer 

With worries that doing nothing could allow the state to shut down Montaña de Oro State Park, SLO County supervisors voted unanimously to charge an entrance fee.

The details are still slim, but a day at the park near Los Osos—which was previously free—will soon likely cost $5 to $6. Yearly passes will probably run about $25 under the current proposal.

SLO County and the state have partnered over a number of state-owned facilities in the county, including Montaña de Oro, the Morro Bay Golf Course, and others. The agreement is set to expire in January 2010, at which time county officials either must relinquish total control to the state, pay about $50,000 per year, or come up with some other financing option.

As California legislators fight to close a $24 billion budget deficit, state parks have been on the hook and some are set for closure. County officials worry Montaña de Oro could suffer the same fate if nothing is done, despite complaints from residents over charging them to access the park.

Many Los Osos residents complained because Montaña de Oro is their only community park. There was some hesitancy, but supervisors were obviously scared that the state would simply shut down the park or impose its own higher fees.

“I think that people just need to realize that the state’s broke,” Supervisor Adam Hill said.

Before the fees go into effect, however, county officials have asked for written guarantees from the state, including free passes for volunteers and maintenance of new trails in Irish Hills.

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