That has led many parks to look for ways to make up the difference, often at the expense of visitors through new or increased prices and fees, such as non-refundable transaction fees on credit cards, Johnson reports.
A model created by Michigan in 2010 has proven to not only be successful, but is saving visitors park fees while increasing the number of visitors, Johnson writes. When residents renew their vehicle registration, the state offers them an opportunity to pay an $11 fee for a passport, which allows them access to 102 state parks and 75 boat launches for the next year. The passport, which costs significantly lower than the regular season pass, has been popular, with 24.7 percent of people buying one in 2011 and 27.3 percent in 2012. The state needed only 17 percent of people to purchase a pass to break even.
Other states have followed suit, Johnson reports. Idaho replaced its $40 season pass with a $10 passport available with yearly license plate renewal. Last year 95,800 people bought the passport, compared to the 15,000 people who usually buy the pass at $40. The move has generated more than $1 million.
Kansas offers a pass with vehicle registration for $15,50, much less than the $25 if someone buys a pass at a park or a government office, Johnson writes. Washington sells a pass for $30, and lets participants make a donation to several causes, including state parks. "Texas added a line to its vehicle registration form asking people to donate $5 (or more) for upkeep of state parks; the state comptroller projects $1.6 million in revenue a year from the small donation," Stateline reports.