Significant fee increase looms for Sequoia-Kings Canyon


The National Park Service announced this week a plan to more than double the entrance fees to the most popular parks during peak seasons. Among the 18 parks that would be affected by the proposal is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Visitors to the local parks would see rates hike from the current $30 per non-commercial vehicle to $70 during a five-month “peak season.”
To enter on a motorcycle would cost $50. A park specific annual pass would cost $50. 
The NPS said Tuesday, Oct. 24, that it needs the revenue from the fees to help defray the costs of a $12 billion backlog of maintenance. The 18 parks, which include the iconic gems of the system from Alaska’s Denali to Acadia in Maine, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, generate 70 percent of all park entrance fees. 
“Targeted fee increases at some of the most oft-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,” said Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior in a department news release.
Each park will continue to keep 80 percent of the entrance fees it brings in under the terms of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. The remaining 20 percent is used for projects at other national parks.
In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Woody Smeck, park superintendent, clarified how the proceeds from the fee increases might be used.   
“As the proposal indicates, the revenue would be used to address deferred maintenance to park infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, restrooms, campgrounds, and trails,” said Woody. “Our current deferred maintenance backlog is $133 million, which is down from $201 million five years ago. We are making progress in improving roads, bridges, and trails, thanks largely to entrance fees. Over the next three years, we hope to replace deteriorated water lines and sewer systems at Lodgepole and Grant Grove, replace exhibits and install a new roof at Lodgepole Visitor Center, rehab campground restrooms, and rebuild failing sections of the John Muir and Pacific Crest trails.”
Lena Moffitt, a spokesperson for the Sierra Club, said her members are infuriated by the proposal. She said the fee hikes are the wrong way to address the maintenance costs.
“The right way would be for Congress to allocate full funding through legislation to address this backlog of maintenance,” Moffitt said. “Then they could use resources from other places to fix and maintain our parks… and not turn our most popular places into playgrounds for the wealthy.” 
If implemented, it has been estimated that the entrance fees would increase national park revenue by $70 million annually. This is a 34 percent increase over the $200 million collected during the 2016 fiscal year.
The NPS is also proposing entry and permit fee adjustments for commercial tour operators. CUA (commercial use and authorization) applications and management fees stay within the parks where they are collected and would be used for rehabbing buildings, parking lots, and roadside interpretive signs. 
If approved, the new fee structure would begin in 2018.  
A public comment period on the proposed increase will continue through Thursday, Nov. 23.
WRITTEN COMMENTS may be mailed to: National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, D.C. 20240.   
The 18 national parks that would be affected by the peak-season fee increase to $70:
Acadia National Park
Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Denali National Park
Glacier National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Olympic National Park
Sequoia National Park
Shenandoah National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yosemite National Park
Zion National Park

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