Drastic park fee hike reconsidered

 

As part of the ongoing efforts to address aging park infrastructure, the National Park Service announced Thursday, April 12, changes to the entrance fees charged at national parks. The fee increases ­— which were developed in response to public comments on a fee proposal released in October 2017 — will modestly increase entrance fees to raise additional revenue to address the $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance across the system of 417 parks, historic and cultural sites, and monuments. 
 
The initial proposal recommended raising entrance fees substantially for peak visitor periods. For instance, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’s  fees would have been increased from $30 to $70 from May to September each year. 
 
Instead, most seven-day vehicle passes to enter national parks will be increased by $5 and will be implemented in many parks beginning June 1. Sequoia-Kings Canyon will increase the price of a seven-day vehicle pass to the park from $30 to $35, which will remain in effect year-round. 
 
The revenue from the fee increases will remain in the National Park Service with at least 80 percent of the money staying in the park where it is collected. The funds will be used for projects and activities to improve the visitor experience. Increased attendance at national parks in the past several years means aging park facilities are incurring even more wear and tear. 
 
“I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases at the 117 fee-charging parks as opposed to larger increases proposed for 17 highly visited national parks. The $11.6 billion maintenance backlog isn’t going to be solved overnight and will require a multi-tiered approach as we work to provide badly needed revenue to repair infrastructure.”
 
The new fee structure at Sequoia-Kings Canyon will be increased $5 and take effect Friday,  June 1, as follows: $35 per vehicle, $20 per person (on foot or bicycle), and $30 per motorcycle. The park-specific annual pass will remain $50 through May, then be increased to $60. The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.
 

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