BOISE, Idaho — Even in a pandemic, entrance fees at Idaho state parks still apply.
State parks have seen a major increase in visitors since the coronavirus outbreak spurred closures and event cancellations across Idaho. But officials with the parks department say many of those visitors are not paying the required fees to get in.
For those who do not purchase an Idaho Parks Passport - which allows for unlimited entry to all 30 state parks - the fee to enter one of the parks is $5 per car.
Because of social distancing rules, the fee kiosks are no longer manned by employees. Instead, state officials are directing park-goers to place their $5 payment in a fee tube near the entrance, relying on the honor system.
But according to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, most people are not paying. An estimated three out of four non-passport holders who come into the parks are ignoring the signs instructing them to pay, and getting in free.
The entrance fees are vital to keeping state parks maintained, especially during periods of economic downturn. The state parks receive only ten percent of their funding from Idaho taxpayers.
"Between campground closures and switching to a new registration system, the department's reliance on entrance fees has grown at a time that less people are contributing," the department wrote in a release. "We cannot maintain the parks efficiently throughout the year with nearly 75 percent of daily visitors avoiding entrance fees."
Everyone who wants to visit a state park should make sure to come prepared with the $5 to get in. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is also asking people to remember to follow social distancing guidelines while inside the parks.