Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s two-year state budget proposal to the Legislature includes an increase in state park entry fees.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is proposing increasing annual state park vehicle permit fees from $35 to $45. The daily permit would increase from $7 to $10.
The fee increases would raise about $2.6 million in additional revenue. Without it, state officials say the state park fund faces a nearly $2 million annual shortfall by 2023 despite more users than ever.
Minnesota last raised park fees in 2018, when the cost of an annual pass went from $25 to $35, and daily fees were increased from $5 to $7.
State parks were more popular than ever last year with people seeking outdoor recreation during COVID-19. Visitation at state parks near cities increased 60% in 2020 while statewide visitors were up almost 25%. Annual park permit sales also jumped about 40%.
But with state park campgrounds closed for several weeks early last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, camping revenues were down 28%. Overall, state park revenues dropped 2.6% even with more passes sold.
In addition to higher entry fees, camping and lodging fees at state parks also could go up.
“We are reviewing camping, lodging and rental fees that are set by the DNR commissioner. Our goal is to align the fees better to the Parks and Trails System Plan and to have a simpler and more consistent fee structure,’’ said Phil Leversedge, deputy director of the DNR Parks and Trails Division. “We expect to finalize our changes in the next few weeks and anticipate some minor adjustments up and down in individual fees at specific parks.”
The state park fee increase, like all of Walz’s budget, will be picked apart and debated in coming months as the 2021 Legislature has its input. A compromise version of the two year, $54 billion budget could be hashed out by May.