By Joyce Edlefsen
Rexburg (ID) Standard Journal
St. Anthony, Idaho — Major changes are in the works concerning registrations
for ATVs and snowmobiles in Idaho.
County officials are
concerned about how those changes might affect the county's snowmobile program
and the related economy.
Nancy Merrill, director of the Idaho Department of Parks and
Recreation, and key staff visited the Fremont County Commission Monday to
explain the changes and seek the county's help in maintaining a viable
County is a key player in
the state's snowmobile industry, representing about 20 percent of the total
registration revenue statewide.
Plenty of people in the upper valley depend on the industry
for at least a portion of their livelihood—from snowmobile dealers, repair
shops and equipment renters to the county employees who operate the trail groomers.
The major change, set to roll out January 2014, is to
transfer all registration operations—including snowmobile registration—from the
Idaho Parks and Recreation Department's
responsibility to the Idaho Transportation Department.
Parks and Recreation is getting completely out the
The move is prompted by a 80 percent cut in the Parks &
Recreation Department budget two years ago and a order from Gov. C.L.
"Butch" Otter to his department heads to make their agencies more
One of the first efficiency efforts was to improve the
department's 20-year-old registration system, which is dependent on 300 vendors
statewide and on digital communication with the Department of Transportation.
"They have a new system that won't communicate with the
Parks and Rec system," Merrill said.
After reviewing several options, the transfer of
registrations outright to the D.O.T. proved to be the most financially logical.
After the roll out of the program in 2014, "We will
have no staff and no capability of handling registrations," Merrill said,
And the department is moving ahead with planning to make the
change possible. Idaho
snowmobile users will be able to register on line, in person at the DMV at the
Courthouse or by mail as usual.
The problem for Fremont
County and for other counties that
have an out-of-state snowmobile clientele is reaching customers—customers who
may decide on the spur of the moment to drive to Idaho
from neighboring Utah or Montana to ride for a weekend. Currently
they pick up snowmobile stickers from one of the 10 vendors now operating in Fremont County.
The state has tried to contact as many past nonresident
snowmobile registrants as possible to tell them about the changes and to urge
them to register online.
But state and Fremont
County officials are
concerned there could be a drop in the numbers of out-of-state snowmobilers,
and thus a drop in revenue for trail grooming programs if it becomes more
difficult or confusing for snowmobilers to register to ride.
About 4 percent of the state revenue from snowmobile
registrations has come from out of state.
Merrill said one option for out-of-state registration is to
let the county handle the program and retain the revenue from it.
For example, the county could pre-purchase snowmobile
stickers from the state, sell them at the DMV and distribute them to qualified
vendors that have computer access to keep records. The vendors would sell the
stickers and remand the revenue to the county.
"We are open for suggestions, ideas and
solutions," Merrill said. "What you do in Fremont County
we could replicate in other counties. You are the epicenter for folks who come
in from out of state."
Commission Chairman Skip Hurt reiterated the county's
economic stake in the program and said county officials and their snowmobile
advisory committee will meet to discuss options.
Parks and Recreation
official Garth Taylor said he would like to be a part of that discussion moving
County and the state already
have strong ties, with two state Parks and one rail to trail and a grant
program that helps fund many county projects related to recreation.