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Idaho’s busiest parks hike fees for non-residents


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BOISE (AP) — Idaho’s most popular state parks started doubling camping fees for out-of-state residents on Thursday as required by a new state law.

Still, it will take at least a year to see if the move — intended to help more Idaho residents get spots in the parks — will have the desired effect. That’s because the state’s five most popular parks were fully booked for the summer as soon as reservations opened up back in December.

“It’s kind of a scramble when the nine-month book-ahead window opens. It books up within the hour,” state parks spokesman Craig Quintana said. “The sad fact is, if we could magically snap our fingers and double our inventory, we would still sell out. We need more camping, pretty much across our system.”

Idaho State Parks reported a visitation record in 2020 of nearly 7.7 million people coming to the parks for day use and camping — 1.2 million more than the previous high number. About 30 percent of last year’s visitors were from out of state.

Idaho State Parks Director Susan Buxton said the changes will keep Idaho competitive with surrounding states, which have similar surcharges for non-resident campers.

“Even with these increases, our parks are a good value given the exceptional recreational opportunities,” Buxton said in a prepared statement.

At popular Ponderosa State Park, on the shores of Payette Lake in McCall, a basic campsite costs $24 per night and one with full hookups costs $32. Next year, out-of-staters will pay double; if fees remain the same next year, they’d pay $48 and $64 for the same sites.

Those same fee increases will apply at four other busy state park campgrounds: Farragut, Priest Lake and Round Lake in North Idaho; and Henry’s Lake in eastern Idaho.