Public comment sought on 2020-2021 Montana State Park fee schedule
December 5, 2019
HELENA – Montana State Parks is seeking public comment on the draft Montana State Parks 2020/2021 Fee Schedule. If adopted, the fee schedule would be in effect from Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2021. Comments will be accepted through Sunday, Dec. 22 at 5 p.m.
Gov. Bullock’s Parks In Focus commission issued its final report in 2018 making several recommendations about funding and management of state parks. A legislative audit was completed with several recommendations for oversight and funding.
“We made a commitment to the public in 2017 that we would put parks on the right path to ensure their management and future,” said FWP Director Martha Williams in a press release. “We’ve had a lot of help along the way in making these changes and now we’re beginning to see the pieces fall into place.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Bullock signed Senate Bill 24, a bipartisan effort to raise the voluntary light vehicle registration fee from $6 to $9. This optional fee supports not only state parks but fishing access sites, recreational trails and historic properties in Nevada and Virginia Cities. This funding was critical for parks management and to make progress toward a backlog of maintenance needs.
This past summer, FWP finalized its revision of the parks classification policy, which will give the department clearer direction on how to manage parks based on the type of experience and level of services provided. The new Classification and Investment Strategy Policy will ideally make it easier for visitors to distinguish between the wide array of options that the park system offers.
“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.”
As proposed, the new fee schedule will not impact camping fees but would make modest adjustments to daily entrance fees, hike/bike camping, RV dumping and cave tours at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. Other fee changes include increases to firewood permits and the Non-Resident Annual Pass.
New fees proposed include: a corral fee, special use fee for large groups and a seven-day Non-Resident Vehicle Entrance Pass. This $35 pass creates another option for out-of-state visitors allowing non-residents to enjoy entrance at all state parks for seven consecutive days and camping fees at the Montana resident rate.
User fees account for approximately 25 percent of the overall Montana State Parks operations budget. Modest increases in user fees help the state park system keep up with rising operational costs and maintenance of visitor amenities. The proposed increases will bring in about $200,000 for parks operations.
To review the proposed 2020-2021 Montana State Parks Fee Schedule and a reference to both current and proposed fees, visit stateparks.mt.gov click on ‘Public Comments & Notices’ on the right-hand task bar. To comment online, visit direct link: http://stateparks.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/biennial-commission-rule/pn_0008.html
The public can also email comments to FWPParksRules@mt.gov or mailed to: Montana State Parks, 2020/2021 Fee Schedule, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.