I definitely have mixed feelings about the California State Park system. Annual passes went from $30 to $60 to $120 (now 50% more than the Federal Lands pass for national parks), yet even at astronomical prices they don't honor their own annual pass at many parks, including Bodie. The "Photographer Days" offering a few extra hours at Bodie are a great service, but at $30 they were expensive, at $50 last year they excluded many retired people (age discrimination), the unemployed (22% of the state's residents according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics U-6 measure) and the poor (which in this economy includes many of the photographers the sessions are intended to serve). The night sessions are even worse.
Camping fees at state parks were as low as $10 a few years ago, but have skyrocketed to $30 (50% more than in national parks). The California Department of Parks and Recreation loves to get photographers' images for brochures, Web sites and commercials, but they no longer pay photographers. They only pay graphic artists, Web designers, and the administrative staff at the Department of Parks and Recreation who ask for ask for the product of our work for free. The nonprofit California State Parks Foundation is flush with so much cash they've collected from well-meaning folks "to benefit the California State Parks", they were able to buy the Web site MyParkPhotos.com. Their (paid) administrative and marketing folks are often involved in driving the market value of California State Park photos to zero (net effect: decreasing park visitation by photographers, and by the people who would have been inspired to visit by their photographs).
Instead of alienating visitors with higher fees and reducing their base of voter support, the Department of Parks and Recreation should be offering free photowalks and increasing their use and support base among California voters. Get the administrators off their butts and away from their desks leading, interpretive walks (including photowalks), or replace them with people who do want to welcome and interact with the California residents and visitors they're (allegedly) there to serve. If they can't use a computer and a digital camera and encourage visitation through programs and pursue support via the Internet, they're ineffective... retire them (when the state employees' union protects/rewards incompetence among administrators, many more of its members suffer with furloughs and workforce reductions).
Instead of penalizing photo workshop instructors with 8 page permit applications and high fees, give them a free annual pass and enjoy the entry fees (and support) from the thousands of people they bring to the parks each year. The customers they introduce the the parks in their best light will return again and again, and introduce their friends to the parks. I'd love to see the California State Park system thrive, but while they're good at begging for funding and voter support, I can't recall a single productive thing they've done in recent years to earn it. In fact, their counterproductive actions only decrease their support and increase the odds of closing more parks, and as they alienate their user base, fewer people are left who care. I say replace the whole department with a private contractor to manage the parks, one with far more freedom to hire and fire employees to ensure creative solutions.
I'm going to make a proposal to the Bodie Foundation. They want to win a $100,000 grant, but they need votes to beat out other parks for the money. Photographers on G+ can help them get there. I'm going to propose that they agree up front to cut the night workshop fees if we help them get enough votes to win the grant. They might not collect $20k in fees from photographers attending in a year, but gain $100,000 from hundreds or thousands who want to visit some day (and the property of California residents becomes much more accessible to California residents). That seems to me like a compromise in which everyone wins, and we can demonstrate that working with and for the people you're trying to serve can be a much more productive and profitable strategy.