Snowmobilers will see new kiosks on state land in North Idaho

Jan. 24—Snowmobilers in North Idaho may have noticed some new signage this winter.

The Idaho Department of Lands has installed three new kiosks for its trails on endowment lands in Boundary County.

The kiosks, placed in the Fall Creek and Ruby Creek areas, provide space for the agency to post updates and include QR codes that allow users to pull up digital maps that provide current information on area closures and other items.

Todd Wernex, the recreation manager for the Department of Lands, said the kiosks are the first to be used for winter recreation in Idaho. Similar kiosks exist on trails used primarily in the summer season.

He said they're meant to make it easier for riders to know the rules and help preserve endowment lands, which the state uses to generate revenue for public schools.

It's part of an effort between the lands department, Idaho Parks and Recreation and Boundary County to ensure snowmobilers and others have the information they need and to limit damage to young trees and other vegetation on state endowment lands.

Snowmobilers enjoy "boondocking," or riding off trail to find fresh powder. On endowment lands — which are managed for timber production — that can create problems for young and newly planted trees by stunting their growth.

Department of Lands officials are developing maps and signage to guide people away from areas that need to be protected, and the kiosks will play a significant role in getting that information to people.

With digital maps instead of paper maps, officials will more easily be able to let people know about changes in the rules or closures.

"It allows us to easily update every year, where a physical map doesn't allow that as easily," Wernex said.

The informational installations are also the product of a relatively new revenue stream for the lands department's recreation program.

A law passed in 2021 increased the price of snowmobile stickers that riders purchase from the state Parks and Recreation Department, but also tweaked where that revenue goes.

A dollar from every permit now goes to the lands department. The agency is funneling that money into improvements and maintenance on its snowmobile trails.

Wernex said that revenue funded the purchase and construction of the kiosks, which were put up before the snow flew. He also said the money has been used to reimburse the Boundary County grooming program for brushing out roads that they groom.

He added that the benefits go beyond those who use horsepower to find fun in the winter.

"It is earmarked for anything that is snowmobile related, and it's going to benefit that snowmobile community," Wernex said. "By and large that also benefits other recreation users, motorized and nonmotorized that may utilize a parking lot that's plowed out."