The National Park Service issued a statement on October 24, 2017 concerning a proposed fee increase on 17 of the most highly visited parks. Included in the proposal are Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Zion in Utah, and Grand Canyon in Arizona. The proposed fee would only be implemented during peak season. With unprecedented visitation to many of these parks (Grand Canyon and Zion being two of the highest), there is a need to control visitation numbers, but there is also concern about the impact it may have on local economies and whether additional needed funds should come from increased fees rather than Congress.
The justification for the fee would be to pay for infrastructure. According to the statement released by the NPS, “Proposed peak season entrance fees and revised fees for road-based commercial tours would generate badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks. This includes roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services.” According toSecretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, “The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration. 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. We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today. Shoring up our parks’ aging infrastructure will do that.”
The proposed fee increases are substantial. According to the release, “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.” There are no proposed changes to annual passes which are $80. The cost seems to be directed primarily at tourists, which may also impact visitation numbers.
Theresa Puerno, President of the National Parks Conservation Association, said, “We should not increase fees to such a degree as to make these places – protected for all Americans to experience – unaffordable for some families to visit. The solution to our parks’ repair needs cannot and should not be largely shouldered by its visitors. The administration just proposed a major cut to the National Park Service budget even as parks struggle with billions of dollars in needed repairs. If the administration wants to support national parks, it needs to walk the walk and work with Congress to address the maintenance backlog. A proposal before Congress now, the National Park Service Legacy Act, would establish a more substantial and sustainable investment in our parks. The administration should urge Congress to put this bill on the president’s desk and pass a budget that puts more money, not less, into our national parks.” This sentiment is echoed by many who feel that funding the NPS by fee increases is an unfair burden placed on families.
One suggested benefit of the rate increase is that parks keep 80 percent of the funds collected by entrance fees. This would be a way to ensure that the parks that need it most have the funds to maintain their infrastructure. According to the NPS release, “Estimates suggest that the peak-season price structure could increase national park revenue by $70 million per year. That is a 34 percent increase over the $200 million collected in Fiscal Year 2016.”
There is a public comment period from October 24, 2017 to November 23, 2017 for members of the public to express their concerns. You can comment online at:
Written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240