Steep Fee Hikes Possible at America's Busiest National Parks: Planners Need to be Ready
15 Nov, 2017By: Michael Popke
Citing the need to improve the visitor experience at America’s national parks, the National Park Service (NPS) is considering increasing fees at 17 popular sites during peak visitor seasons — a move that could impact registration fees and other costs associated with sporting events that may take place in those parks.
The parks named in the proposal are Acadia, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion National Parks. The peak season for each park would be defined as its busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation.
Proposed peak season entrance fees and revised fees for road-based commercial tours would generate revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks, according to the NPS. This includes roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, restrooms and other visitor services.
“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a statement. “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting.”
During the peak season at each park, the entrance fee would be $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.
Democratic lawmakers balked at the NPS proposal. “We should be encouraging more people to get outdoors and enjoy our great natural wonders instead of discouraging them by raising park entrance fees,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) of the House Natural Resources Committee said in a statement.
“The solution to our parks’ repair needs cannot and should not be largely shouldered by its visitors,” added Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association.
If implemented, estimates suggest that the peak-season price structure could increase national park revenue by $70 million per year.
As The Washington Post reports: “The statement [from the NPS] does not mention [President Trump’s] 2018 budget proposal to cut nearly $400 million from the parks. Nor does it mention bipartisan bills in Congress that would divert $12 billion in federal oil and gas royalties from the national treasury to fund the parks’ maintenance backlog over 30 years. Zinke and the Trump administration have yet to publicly support or oppose the bills, known collectively as the National Park Service Legacy Act.”
The NPS is offering a public comment period on the peak-season entrance fee proposal through Nov. 23. For more details, visit the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website.