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National Park Service Announces Entrance Fee Increases

by Countable | 10.27.17

  • 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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