NPS Proposes Targeted Fee Increases at Parks to Address Maintenance Backlog

Steve Nehf The Denver PostA herd of elk get up close and provide

It could soon cost you almost three times as much to take your family to Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, Olympic and other popular national parks.

Prices will increase at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks beginning May 1.

Visitors to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and other national parks would be charged $70 per vehicle, up from the fee of $30 for a weekly pass.

A 30-day public comment period will run from October 24 to November 23 on a park service website. "It hurts people who don't traditionally have access to parks more than those that do". National Park Service officials said the cuts would lead to service reductions for visitors and increase the workload of its employees.

The NPS is also proposing revised fees for commercial tours.

The proposed price hike sparked immediate criticism from the National Parks Conservation Association, a nonpartisan group aimed at "protecting and enhancing America's National Park System for present and future generations".

Park-specific annual passes now range in price.

"It's hard enough just to pay for the gas and lodging and getting transportation let alone the steep fee getting into the park", says Allyson Khan, who has visited several national parks.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement, "We should be encouraging more people to get outdoors and enjoy our great natural wonders instead of discouraging them by raising park entrance fees".

During that time period, the entry fee would increase from the current $25 to $70 per vehicle. The cost for people biking and entering the park on foot would double to $30, from the current rate of $15 to $20.

The National Park Service believes that this price adjustment would result in an additional $70 million in revenue per year that could be used for "improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks". Those sites, which stretch from Denali in Alaska to Acadia in ME, generate 70 percent of all park entrance fees.

In recent years, the parks' aging infrastructure has grown into a looming and massive problem.

"We think national parks should be fully funded through Congress at the level at which they need to be vibrant, healthy and sustainable", she said.

According to a fact sheet published by the department, annual park pass prices would increase to $75 at the 17 parks, up from $35-$60 now. Last year, the parks attracted a record 331 million visitors - a 7.7 percent increase over 2015.

Jim Tomlin, the president of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, which maintains 101 miles of the trail that runs through the park, hypothesized that the change would simply lead more people to buy the national pass, depriving local parks of revenue.

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