State park fees may increase next year

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Officials with Montana State Parks are looking for public feedback on a proposal to raise fees for outdoor recreational activities.

The draft fee schedule would see the daily entrance cost raised from $6 to $8 and the non-resident annual pass jump from $35 to $50. The cost to hike, bike or camp would become a flat $8 fee regardless of state residency.

Other changes include raising the price of firewood from $24 a cord to $40.

New fees include a $35 charge for seven-day non-resident vehicle entrance passes, which is valid across Montana’s state parks, and a $10 per animal, per night corral fee.

Officials said the fees comprise about 25 percent of the state agency’s operating budget. Increases offset rising operational and maintenance costs, they said. Each year, about 2.5 million people visit state parks in Montana.

“We recognize that visitors want a range of experiences and with this new system of designations, members of the public, current and prospective partners, and other important constituencies will be able to better understand what to expect and how we are managing each site, now and into the future,” said Parks Division Administrator Beth Shumate. “This policy will also help guide our decisions around resource allocation and serve as a framework for better investing in parks across the state.”

If approved, the fees would go into effect from 2020 to 2021. Officials estimate the fees will raise about $200,000 in revenue for the park system.

To review the plan and leave a comment, visit www.stateparks.mt.gov and click on the public comments and notices tab on the right hand menu bar. Comments will be open until Dec. 22.

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