Local parks seek input on fee increase

 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are seeking input to evaluate support for proposed entrance, wilderness permit, and some campsite fee increases. Comments are being accepted through Tuesday, Dec. 9. 

The proposed single vehicle entrance fee would increase from $20 to $30 for a seven-day vehicle pass; the annual pass for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks would increase from $30 to $50.

The current rate of $10 for walk-in and bicycles would increase to $15. The charge of an individual motorcycle that enters the parks would increase from $10 to $25. There would be no changes to the flat-rate fees for commercial groups.

The Interagency Annual Pass will remain at $80; the Interagency Senior Pass will remain at $10 (one time lifetime fee) while the Annual Military Pass and the Senior Pass would remain free.

“This proposal for a fee increase is really the result of several factors,” said Woody Smeck, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks superintendent. “We certainly want to complete some backlogged maintenance and improvements before 2016 — the National Park Service Centennial. Remodeling the 60 year-old restrooms at Lodgepole and adding showers, fixing the Crystal Cave trail, and building a nature trail with river access at Potwisha will directly benefit our visitors.”

Superintendent Smeck said that park fees have generally been increased to keep pace with inflation. In 1913, it cost $1.50 to enter Sequoia and $1 to visit General Grant National Park. 

That $1.50 translates to $36 today. To raise the fees to $30 would standardize Sequoia–Kings Canyon entrance fees with the other top-tier western parks. 

Yosemite National Park is expected to enact similar increases in fees after November 20, the date that park’s comment period closes. The local parks are also planning more fee-free days as a mitigation measure if and when the rate hikes are adopted.

The last fee increases were adopted in 2006.  Smeck said each park is directed to review the fee structure every nine to 12 years.

The fee program is critical because 80 percent of the funds collected are used in the parks where they are received. Another priority to use the local funds is restoring access to the Colony Mill Road, the original park entrance until 1926.

Smeck, who recently hiked the Colony Mill Road, said the historic road affords some great views of the North and Middle Fork canyons. He also said he was somewhat embarrassed by the area’s condition.

Smeck will be attending informal workshops on the fee increases and answering questions on all park matters at two upcoming local meetings. On Monday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m., Superintendent Smeck will address the Visalia City Council.

The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce will host a fall mixer on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 6:30 pm. at Sequoia Cider Mill Restaurant in Three Rivers, and Smeck will also speak to that gathering. The public is invited to attend both events.

To submit electronic comments or for more information, log onto the NPS’s Planning Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/seki. Click on Proposal to Increase Fees at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

An online web briefing on the proposed fee increases will be held Thursday, Nov. 20, at noon PST. A live link will be posted at the web address printed above.

For more information, call Michelle, acting public information officer, at (559) 565-3131.

An earlier version of this article with additional price-increase proposals on this site and can be accessed here: www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/fee-increase-proposal-table-sequoia-kings-canyon.

 

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