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National Park Service Announces Entrance Fee Increases

by Countable | Updated on 4.13.18

  • Update - April 13, 2018: The National Park Service announced that "as part of its ongoing efforts to address aging park infrastructure and improve the visitor experience" it will be increasing the entrance price for 117 parks by $5 to $10.

  • The move comes in response to a public outcry over the NPS' original proposal, which had called for nearly tripling the entrance fees to 17 of the nation's most popular parks.

"I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement. "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."

Countable's original story appears below.


Public Comment Open: Raising Fees for National Parks

What’s the story?

The National Park Service submitted a proposal that would more than double the peak-season entrance fees at America’s busiest national parks to $75 per car, up from the current rate of $25 to $30.

The park service said the rate hike is necessary to address its almost $12 billion maintenance backlog. The fee increase would generate "badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks" including “roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services.”

"The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration," Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a statement.

Under the new proposal, the cost for motorcycles entering the park would increase to $50 from its current rate of $15 or $25, and the cost of entering the park on foot (or bike) could go to $30 from the current rate of $10 to $25.

The national parks affected by the rate hikes would include Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, and Joshua Tree. (A full list of the 17 national parks affected appears below.)

The public is invited to comment on the NPS proposal here.

Why does it matter?

The National Parks Conservation Association, a nonpartisan advocacy group, criticized the admission fee increase.

"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 group’s CEO and president, Theresa Pierno, said in a statement. "The solution to our parks' repair needs cannot and should not be largely shouldered by its visitors."

Pierno was referring to the Trump administration’s proposal to slash the NPS’ budget by 13 percent and shrink its workforce by more than 1,200 employees.

"If the administration wants to support national parks," Pierno said, "it needs to walk the walk and work with Congress to address the maintenance backlog.”

But Zinke said the "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."

NPS spokesman Jeremy Barnum expanded on this idea, telling NPR that "people don't always think about the fact that when you show up at these very remote areas, you can still drink water, even take a shower, go for a drive along Skyline Drive. But all that takes money."

But this may be money some national park visitors don’t have.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester – whose state of Montana is home to two of the affected parks – voiced concerns about the fee increase.

In an interview with the Flathead Beacon, Tester said, "Americans already own these parks and they shouldn't have to empty their wallets to enjoy them. Glacier and Yellowstone should be accessible to all of us. This decision will price Montana families out of our public lands, and hurt local economies, which thrive thanks to our National Parks."

Some also question the timing of the rate increase while national parks are experiencing a record number of visitors. Maureen Finnerty, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, said the rate hike would break another NPS record.

"The enormity of the increases exceeds any increases in the history of the National Park Service," Finnerty said in a statement. “Fees alone are not the answer to the budget problems. At a time when there is record visitation in our National Parks, there should be adequate financial support by the Administration and the Congress."

What do you think?

Should national park visitors be responsible for covering NPS operating costs? Or is it up to "Congress to address the maintenance backlog"? Would you be willing to pay more to visit your favorite national park? Hit Take Action, tell your reps, then comment below.

And be sure to comment with the National Park Service here.

—Josh Herman

The national parks that would be affected by the peak-season fee increase:

  • 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

  • Mount Rainier National Park

  • Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Olympic National Park

  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

  • Shenandoah National Park

  • Yellowstone National Park

  • Yosemite National Park

  • Zion National Park

Related Reading

(Photo Credit: Josh Herman)

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(223)
  • Paul
    10/26/2017
    ···

    The fee for entrance into National Parks should not be increased to a level that would preclude citizens the enjoyment of our parks. The government seems to have money or willing to set aside money for many things such as building a wall, or foreign aid, or for the appeasement of special interest, or pork barrel legislation, or other “Golden Fleece” set asides, we can allow our parks to be affordable.

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  • Kate
    10/26/2017
    ···

    The National parks are public lands and monuments that should be available for all Americans to enjoy. We need to be investing more money in our parks from outside sources. One study found that for every $1 invested in the parks we gain $4 in economic value, the same rate as a clean needle exchange program.

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  • Linda
    10/26/2017
    ···

    Since when are our National Parks only for the rich? I think you can assume that the millions who are no longer able to take their kids to a National Park on summer vacation because of extraordinarily high entrance fees will let their feelings be known at the ballot box.

    Like (51)
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  • Mark
    10/27/2017
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    Why not charge the corporations you’ve allowed to harvest from our public lands what you need to cover expenses? As if that’ll be considered? Lol

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  • Paula
    10/26/2017
    ···

    I would expand the scope of Senator Tester’s comments on the subject: “Americans already own these parks and they shouldn't have to empty their wallets to enjoy them.” ALL of our National parks “...should be accessible to all of us. This decision will price...families out of our public lands, and hurt local economies, which thrive thanks to our National Parks." A modest increase would be understandable, but Congress needs to ensure that adequate funds are made available to cover maintenance and staffing. Put my tax dollars to good, wholesome use protecting America’s jewels!

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  • Judy
    10/27/2017
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    So it is ok to fund the President’s constant golf outings, but not ok to keep our national parks affordable for the average American. This is wrong!

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  • BeStrong
    10/26/2017
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    A fee increase would be appropriate, but not going from a $30 to $75 fee per car, which represents a 150% increase. Increase the rate for the Peoples’ Parks within reason...and someone tell Mr Zinke that our National Parks should NOT be developed for commercial energy purposes. Or tell Mr Zinke that he can be an oil czar OR A steward of our parks, but not both.

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  • Ticktock
    10/26/2017
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    By cutting the NPS budget, raising fees for use of national lands and allowing public facilities to degrade the Trump Administration is using the same tactic it’s using on the ACA. The Administration is creating condition where public lands will no longer be accessible to the vast majority of citizens. Since the lands will be beyond financial access for some and citizens will be unable to safety enjoy public lands in the numbers experienced by previous generations they will be sold and their natural resources exploited. Remember Trump was a corporate raider first. We’re seeing him in action and the House and Senate are helping him.

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  • Dara
    10/27/2017
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    We have money for wars, weapons of mass destruction, but we can't afford to fund our parks. Our priorities are sad and so are our elected representatives.

    Like (16)
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  • Barbara
    10/26/2017
    ···

    Our national parks are our most beloved treasures. Unfortunately they are being loved to death. Only problem is they are in dire need of projects to spruce them up and bring their condition up to date to allow them to keep being enjoyed. This is not frivolous work but infrastructure maintenance. Fees should be raised but not so high, as suggested, that lower income citizens can no longer afford to use them. A combination of increased fees and an increase in federal funding would keep them beautiful for us and future generations. We know the waste . The question is how to control the waste and redirect funds to all the American people and what is meaningful to them. We the people decide and sadly we seem to be making poor decision. Make your voice heard.

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  • OlderNWiser
    04/13/2018
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    I smell a rat. Wanting to drill, interested in destroying all nature, making the poor and middle-class subsidize the wealthy -1% taxes and then raising the price of national park entrance fees higher than most poor and blue-collar people can afford is just more hatred of the poor. What will people who hate nature and hate 99% of us do with the public lands no one can afford to enjoy anymore? If you destroy a forest and no one hears or sees it, it is still destruction. Do not raise National Park fees exorbitantly. We, the people are already paying for ridiculous tax breaks For the -1%. Let #45, Zinkie, Pruitt, and the rest of them pay the entrance fees for us this time instead of their reverse Robin Hood excesses daily.

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  • Andrew
    10/26/2017
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    NAY! ABSOLUTELY NOT. $70/DAY IS WAY, WAY TOO EXPENSIVE !!

    Like (11)
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  • Michael777
    10/28/2017
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    This is part of the GOP's scam to help afford tax cuts for the rich and for themselves by increasing costs to enter public parks for millions of Americans not them! This should not happen!

    Like (9)
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  • Kristine
    10/26/2017
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    Fund our parks with as much vigor as you do our bloated military. At least we would get our moneys worth with the parks.

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  • Alexandra
    10/27/2017
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    The Parks need to be funded in ways that don’t make it impossible for people with less money to visit them. These are national parks, not private attractions!

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  • Cindylen
    10/26/2017
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    I think that 70$ per day would put these parks out of reach to a lot of people. Really, can’t the budget lean more toward these sites and away from the military or even trumps resorts?

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  • Gavin
    10/27/2017
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    Do not increase these fees. Instead, ensure that sufficient funding is available in our budget to maintain these national treasures. I'm sick of people saying they shouldn't have to pay taxes on things they don't use. This is what it means to live in a modern human society. Everyone pays in for the benefit of the common good and we all reap the benefits through an all around healthier, happier, and better educated society. And shame on the current administration and congress for cutting these funds and causing this shortage in the first place. If the majority of Americans regardless of income can't experience and value our public lands, it makes it very easy to sell off these lands to private industry. This looks like part of a larger agenda to privatize our public lands.

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  • Patricia
    10/27/2017
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    So now with the increase we have no way to go to these parks because of our low income. That’s discrimination against us poor people.

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  • Lee
    10/28/2017
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    No increase in user fees.

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  • Jerry
    10/27/2017
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    Yep, makes perfect Trumpian sense. Big tax break for rich, cut down on park usage by fee increase, and use usage decrease to justify corporate plunder of park resources.

    Like (5)
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