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Parks fee increases could raise almost $1 million a year

Parks fee increases could raise almost $1 million a year

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
February 3, 2010

Increased user fees at parks could rake in close to $1 million for the department that’s facing winnowing state funding.  Projections from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation show that fees could bring in $969,800 during the next fiscal year, which starts in July.  More than half that total, $538,900, comes from new fees that are already in place, including the $10 increase for a yearly pass for a car entrance to parks.  About $430,000 in projected revenues would come from new fees that are under consideration.

All the parks’ projections are assuming no drop in park visits or sales.  Jennifer Wernex, communications director for the parks department, said that’s a safe assumption, because more people have been visiting state parks during the past few years, and visitation jumped 16 percent from 2008 to 2009. “There’s always likelihood that some folks may not be willing to pay these prices,” Wernex said.  She said the parks department asked some park goers about potential increases.  “What we’ve heard is that state park visitors are going to be more than willing to pay that slight increase.”  Wernex said the revenues for potential new fees aren't part of the state budget proposals before lawmakers right now.

The biggest source of revenue among fees already on the books is the increased price of entering parks by car.  Adding $1 to a daily entrance and $10 to an annual pass is expected to bring in more than $290,420 in the next budget.  There are several other new fees expected to bring in thousands:

- $148,500 from increases leases and utilities at Heyburn State Park in northern Idaho.

- $74,890 from increasing camping fees at some high demand parks.

- $15,800 from a 10-25 percent increase in leasing a dock slip at Lucky Peak State Park in Boise.

- $9,340 from increasing fees for using waterfront campsites or camper cabins.

Among potential new fees, the biggest source of new revenue would be on raising campsite fees.  Fees would go up as little as $1 for primitive sites with no amenities to $7 for companion campsites with water, electricity, and sewers.  All told, the campsite fees could bring in $287,724.  The parks department is looking at two other fee sources:

- $138,875 in additional entrance fees, including raising the annual pass from $35 to $40, doubling the price for an annual pass for a second family vehicle from $5 to $10, and tripling the surcharge penalty for not paying other fees from $5 to $15.

- $4,330 from increasing moorage fees for boats.

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