Washington may stop honoring winter recreation permits from outside state

Eric Barker / The Lewiston Tribune /

Washington is poised to end more than 30 years of reciprocity with other states and Canada when it comes to honoring winter recreation permits.

That means out-of-staters will no longer be able to use the state’s Nordic skiing and snowmobiling Sno-Parks simply by possessing a permit from their home state. Conversely, other states will stop honoring Washington Sno-Park permits.

Washington started honoring permits from other states in 1978. But Pamela McConkey, winter recreation program manager for Washington Parks and Recreation, said it is no longer a good deal for the state. For example, she said many of the state’s around Washington, require visiting snowmobilers to register their machines and Washington does not.

“Since that time, programs have evolved and they are really not reciprocal anymore, not only in fee structure but also in the services,” she said.

Washington charges $20 for a day-use Sno-Park permit and $40 for a season-long pass. Sno-Park permits help offset the cost of grooming, snow plowing, bathroom maintenance and law enforcement. The permits allow people to park in Sno-Parks whether they are snowmobilers, skiers or snowshoers.

McConkey said the department began studying the idea and communicating with winter sports enthusiasts from Washington and managers of other states winter recreation programs in 2010.

“We believe people will still come and visit Washington, and we believe Washingtonians will continue to visit neighboring states as well because people have their favorite places to go,” she said. “I think when people come to Washington, they appreciate that the trails are going to be groomed, that the parking lots are going to be plowed and sanitation is going to be provided.”

Tom Lundquist, of Pomeroy and grooming coordinator for the Mount Misery Drifters snowmobile club, said it makes sense to end the program as long as Washington makes it easy for out-of-staters to purchase permits.

“I’m kind of all in favor of it. If you expect me to buy a permit over there, you should buy a permit here,” he said. “I’m in support of the deal so you can at least do your part to pay your part (of grooming and other services).”