Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Park Service seeks big entrance-fee hikes, mostly in West, for infrastructure and maintenance

The National Park Service wants big increases in entrance fees "at 17 of its most popular parks, mostly in the U.S. West," reports Felicia Fonseca The Associated Press. "Visitors to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and other national parks would be charged $70 per vehicle, up from the fee of $30 for a weekly pass. At others, the hike is nearly triple, from $25 to $70."

Most national parks and other Park Service sites do not charge entrance fees, Fonseca notes: "The 118 that do keep 80 percent of revenue for things like fixing restrooms, signs, trails, exhibits and campgrounds and send 20 percent into a pot to help other free park sites." The only Eastern parks affected would be Acadia in Maine and Shenandoah in Virginia.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke endorsed the increases as a 30-day public comment period on the proposal opened Tuesday. "The Park Service says it expects to raise $70 million a year with the proposal at a time when national parks repeatedly have been breaking visitation records and putting a strain on park resources," Fonseca reports. "It comes not long after many of the parks that charge entrance fees raised them. The rationale is the same this time around — to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects."

Other interests said the hikes might reduce visitation at parks. Kevin Dahl, senior program manager in Arizona for the National Parks Conservation Association, told Fonseca that Congress, not vistors, should bear maintenance costs should fall to Congress, not visitors. “We’ve supported increases at the parks,” he said. “They are a huge value for the price of entrance. But we want to look closely at this, and we want local communities to look closely at this, to see if it would impact visitation because we don’t want to price people out of the parks.”

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