Two Idaho parks that were at one time on the chopping block will now add daily fees to fend off budget shortfalls. Part of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR)’s plan to avoid closing parks is to raise fees and examine other business practices, like partnering with private firms for services.
Most state parks already charge motor vehicle and day-use fees. IDPR will start collecting $5 fees at Thousand Springs State Park in the Magic Valley in south Idaho and at Land of Yankee Fork State Park in Challis in central Idaho.
“Those were the only parks left in the system where user fees were not collected,” said Jennifer Wernrex, an IDPR spokeswoman. “In order to standardize fee collection in the agency and increase the revenues at those particular parks, we did go ahead and install the iron rangers there.” Iron rangers are unmanned self-serve pay stations at parks.
Park managers say the added revenue from fees is needed. “We can no longer afford to keep restrooms open and park trails accessible without visitor contribution,” Thousand Springs State Parks Manager Dave Landrum said in an IDPR news release. “Use fees are essential to funding the day to day management of our parks.”
“We’re doing all that we are able to keep Idaho’s special places available for public enjoyment,” Dan Smith, manager at Land of the Yankee Fork said in the release. “Other states are closing parks due to a lack of funding.” The ghost town of Bayhorse that’s affiliated with Yankee Fork currently charges an entrance fee, and now the rest of the park will. Park goers can buy a $35 annual pass that would cover entrance fees at all state parks.
The details of business plans for all 30 state parks in Idaho should be available by July 1, which is the start of the state’s next fiscal year. Wernex said the drop in state funding for parks and the reopening of Dworshak State Park near Orofino are changing their plans. “We have to make adjustments to every park fund,” she said. State general fund dollars for parks would drop 79.4 percent from $6.7 million to $1.39 million for the next fiscal year in the budget approved by Idaho lawmakers. Most of the parks budget, $23 million, comes from dedicated funds, including park entrance fees.
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