It may cost more to enjoy Wyoming’s state parks next year if proposed rate increases take effect.
Wyoming State Parks (WSP) has proposed increasing day-use and overnight camping fees by $1 for residents and $3 and $4 for non-resident day and overnight fees, respectively. WSP proposed an $8 increase for resident annual day-use permits and $26 for non-residents. Annual camping permits will, likewise, increase by $30 for both in-state and out-of-state guests.
The new fee structure would eliminate peak and off-peak rates, according to the release.
“Current revenue shortfalls and necessary budget reductions will require an increase in revenue in order to keep state parks and historic sites open, staffed and maintained,” WSP Deputy Director Dave Glenn said in the release.
Revenue collected through visitor fees goes back to the parks themselves to fund operation and maintenance costs, site enhancements and resource protection, Glenn said.
Traffic at state parks is up substantially compared to previous years, according to WSP Public Information Officer Gary Schoene. This year, Boysen State Park saw a visitor increase of 226% between January and August over last year’s figures, according to Schoene, while Curt Gowdy State Park visitation is up almost 250%.
Despite the increased traffic, however, Schoene said that WSP has faced the same 30% across-the-board budget cuts imposed by Governor Gordon in response to the COVID-19 shutdown as other state agencies, which instigated the need to raise fees.
“The budget cuts hurt, “ Schoene said. “A lot of thought has gone into the decision to raise rates. We expect people to disagree with the fee increases, but the alternative is to be forced to cut amenities or even close a park. Nobody wants that.”
Schoene did not have revenue figures at hand Thursday morning. Regarding additional clean up due to so many park guests, Schoene said those duties are contracted out to private entities for a flat fee and have no bearing on budget issues. The state-mandated budget cuts are the reason for the need in fee increases, he reiterated.
WSP is accepting public comment until Nov. 14 on the proposed fee increases, which are slated to go into effect Jan. 1.
WSP asks the public to submit comments to the Secretary of State’s website at http://rules.wyo.gov or email them to email@example.com. Several public meetings are also being planned at locations across the state.