BOISE – Idaho has sold more than $500,000 of new, lower-priced state parks passports in the first six months of the program, giving parks officials hope that the program will take off big and help fund the park system.
“The process is a little more complicated, but I think Idahoans have been so receptive,” said Jennifer Okerlund, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman. “I think sales are on track.”
The annual pass grants unlimited entry for a single vehicle to any or all of Idaho’s 30 state parks, including Old Mission State Park at Cataldo, Farragut State Park and Priest Lake.
Launched in October 2012, the passport program replaces the previous $40 annual pass for Idaho residents, which typically brought in about $800,000 a year. Parks officials hope many more of the new, cheaper passes will be sold – in part because they can be renewed at the same time as car registrations – and that the passes will bring in an estimated $1.9 million a year.
The transition to the new system has caused some confusion: residents can’t buy the $10 annual pass at the parks, only at the county Department of Motor Vehicles offices. For out-of-staters, there’s still a $40 annual pass that can be purchased at the parks.
The complicated part: The pass is good for a year, but the year cycle must be the same as that of the registration for the vehicle for which it’s purchased. That means if your car registration is up in September and you buy a pass now, it’s only good until September. If you renew then, you’ll get a full year. There’s no pro-rating.
Kootenai County Assessor Mike McDowell, whose office oversees the DMV, said he’s advising those who want to head to parks now but have a registration that’ll expire midsummer to just renew their car registration early. That way, they can get a full year out of their new parks pass.
State funding for Idaho’s parks system has dropped precipitously in recent years, prompting the parks to look for new ways to generate revenue. The parks will get $1.3 million in state funding in the fiscal year that starts July 1, down from $6.8 million four years ago.
As of the end of March – after six months of sales – 41,389 Idahoans had purchased parks passports, including 6,839 in Kootenai County.
This year’s passport revenue already is tracking ahead of the old passes, as are the numbers. Most annual passes are sold in the spring when the camping and picnicking season begins.