Christmas shoppers accustomed to purchasing Montana State Parks Passports as stocking stuffers for their Montana friends will have to find another gift.
"Beginning in 2004 Montana vehicles will be able to enter any State Park free of charge, so a resident State Parks Passport won’t be needed any longer," said Doug Monger, FWP Parks Division administrator. The $30 car window decal allowed unlimited visits to Montana’s parks for the year.
The 2003 Montana State Legislature combined free entry into the parks with a new $4 annual vehicle registration fee to enhance parks funding.
“For $4 a year per vehicle, Montanans will be able to visit all 42 State Parks as often as they choose. This is a nice savings over the $5 vehicle fee charged per visit in the past, or the $30 annual Parks Passport fee,” Monger said.
The $4 fee is voluntary, but Monger said parks officials anticipate most people will appreciate the benefits of free entry into the parks with the assurance of adequate funding to maintain and operate these important recreational, historical and cultural sites.
Monger said a portion of the new vehicle registration fee will be used to help maintain the state’s popular fishing access sites and other state-owned properties at Virginia City.
Nonresident parks visitors will continue to pay either $2-$5 for daily use of State Parks or they may purchase a nonresident State Parks Passport beginning Jan. 2 on the FWP web site at www.fwp.state.mt.us on the Parks page or at FWP regional offices.
Residents and nonresidents will continue to pay camping fees, which range from $12 to $15.
The Montana State Parks Futures II Committee, appointed by Gov. Judy Martz in 2001 to review the operations and management of the State Parks system, determined State Parks’ daily entrance and passport fees were not sufficient to maintain and operate the parks. Of the committee’s recommendations, the $4 vehicle registration fee combined with free entry into the parks for Montanans had broad appeal.