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State to soon release study on park fees

DES MOINES — The Department of Natural Resources is preparing to release the results of a study of the fees charged for using state parks next month.

The Chief of the State Parks, Forests and Preserves Bureau Todd Coffelt says they did the study at the direction of lawmakers. “The direction was for us to compare prices with other public utilities that provide camping services similar to what we do in state parks,” according to Coffelt. “And we have gone through that and compared each location to a 60-mile radius. We have identified the amenities that a visitor will be able to experience and utilize And we’ve kind of identified some of our lower use areas in order to focus and promote the amenities that visitors can use.”

Coffelt says this comes after a period when parks were shut down by the pandemic and there were concerns about the future. “There were a lot of questions if we are not making money then how are we going to survive. And as we regained our composure and brought it back — people really engaged with the idea of getting out and doing more with their families in the new found time that they had,” Coffelt says.

Coffelt says the comeback included 16-and-a-half million visitors to the state parks. “Camping revenue is higher than it was last year even though we were closed for a month — just to put that into perspective,” Coffelt says, “our revenue for cabins and overnight accommodations has increased.”

He says the pandemic has helped them focus on how to best operate the system. “We continue to look at what we can do differently, we continue to experience challenges similar to the states around us of what do we expect in 2021,” Coffelt says. “We are ready for what the future has to offer because we’ve learned a lot of what we can do — we’ve learned a lot of what needs to be done — but those are the things we are working on.”

Coffelt made his comments during the Natural Resources Committee meeting last week.

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