Wyoming Eyes Camping Fee Hikes
Visitors to Wyoming’s state parks and historical sites could see fees double next year under a bill proposed by a legislative committee, according to The Associated Press.
The bill also would impose an additional fee for campsites with amenities such as electrical hookups, showers, and camping structures. The nightly fee could be as much as $15 for electrical hookups and showers and $100 for camping structures.
Department of Parks and Cultural Resources Director Milward Simpson said the current fees are the lowest of any state parks in the country. He said Wyoming’s state parks and historical sites have lagged behind other state parks in basic design for years.
“All of the campsites in Wyoming have been primitive campsites,” he said.
Simpson said the increased revenues generated by the new fees would help to construct fire rings, gravel pads, picnic tables and camper cabins often available at parks in other states.
If visitation remains the same as 2007, Simpson said the fee increase could bring another $636,000 to the $1.2 million annual revenue the parks and sites already generate.
In addition to the fee increase, Simpson said the department is also asking for about $31.6 million more in state funding for its 2009-2010 biennium budget. The request includes $26 million for road repairs and improvements.
Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, chairs the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee, which is sponsoring the bill to increase fees.
“I understand people don’t like to see fees increased, but if properties are deteriorating, increasing user fees are a good way to do it rather than relying solely on state funding,” he said.
The bill would also end the option of offering nonresidents annual camping permits. Simpson said Wyoming is the only state that still makes such permits available to nonresidents.
Ending annual camping permits for nonresidents would bring Wyoming’s parks to the same standard as other state parks in the country and increase revenues, Simpson said. He said ending the permits would not deter out-of-state visitors, who make up more than half of park visitors.
The bill needs a two-thirds vote in the House in order to be heard in this coming budget session. If passed during the legislative session that starts Feb. 11 and signed by Gov. Dave Freudenthal, the act would take effect in January 2009.