Idaho reports brisk sales of new parks passport

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Sales in the first six months of Idaho's new state parks passports show residents are taking a liking to the program.

The Department of Parks and Recreation has sold more than $500,000 worth of the $10 passports, fueling the hopes of agency officials counting on the program to generate more revenue.

"I think Idahoans have been so receptive," agency spokeswoman Jennifer Okerlund told the Spokesman-Review in a story published Thursday. "I think sales are on track."

Approved by state lawmakers in 2012, the program allows residents to buy a $10 annual pass to the states' 30 parks when they renew vehicle registrations at county motor vehicle offices.

The goal of offering a better deal for Idaho residents was to encourage more sales and generate more annual revenue for an agency Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter wants to become self-sufficient. General fund revenue accounts for just 3 percent of the agency's $33 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

As of the end of March, more than 41,300 Idahoans had purchased the passports, according to agency data. A one-year pass is $10, or a two-year pass is $20.

Launched in October 2012, the passport program replaces the previous $40 annual pass for Idaho residents, which typically brought in about $800,000 a year. Parks officials hope many more of the new, cheaper passes will be sold - in part because of the ease of just renewing them when Idahoans renew their car registrations - and the park system will bring in an estimated $1.9 million a year.

This year's passport revenue already is tracking ahead of the old passes, as are the numbers, and most parks annual passes are sold in the spring when the camping and picnicking season begins.

"We just recently started advertising this," Okerlund said. "We knew there would be an education curve."

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review