The Atayal village of Smangus in Jianshi Township (尖石), Hsinchu County, began collecting an entrance fee from visitors yesterday, despite concerns raised by the government and some individuals.
“Today [yesterday] is the first day we charged the entrance fee. We had a few visitors today and they all had no problem with it,” Yuraw Icyang, a preacher at the local church, said by telephone. “The income from the entrance fee will be used to maintain and repair public facilities in Smangus, such as roads and public toilets. It will also be used to keep our village clean.”
The fee, which was agreed upon at a community meeting, is collected at a booth at the new community administration station at the entrance of Smangus. If visitors stay overnight, the fee can be deducted from lodging costs. A notice on the village’s Web site and at the entrance to the community says bicycle riders must pay NT$20, motorcyclists and scooter riders NT$30, cars NT$100 and buses NT$200.
Smangus Community Development Association secretary Lahuy Icyeh said villagers decided to charge a fee because an increased number of visitors had had a major impact on the previously isolated mountain village.
A dirt road linking Smangus to the outside world was only constructed in 1995.
The new policy drew a mixed reaction. One visitor was quoted by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) as questioning if the village had the legal authority to charge an entrance fee.
Visitor Joann Kuo (郭瓊恩) didn’t have a problem with it.
“I have no problem with Smangus charging visitors a fee to maintain facilities and keep it clean — I wouldn’t want to visit a place that’s poorly maintained and dirty,” she said.
Hsinchu County’s Civil Affairs Department Director Lin Ming-teh (林明德) said he was not opposed to such a policy, but it had no legal basis.
“I would see what I can do to help them [Smangus] to complete the legal process — maybe I’ll ask the [Jianshi Township] council to help out,” he said.