Published: Sat, October 28, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

National Parks Service Considering Steep Fee Increase

National Parks Service Considering Steep Fee Increase

In a statement, the National Park Service said the fee increases would raise $70 million more toward addressing an $11 billion backlog in park maintenance to fix deteriorating buildings, restrooms and roads.

Under the new proposal, entry fees for private vehicles will go from $25/$30 to $70 during peak season.

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

The price hike will bring in an estimated $70 million to fix roads, campgrounds, trails and facilities.

The price increases, which are subject to a public comment period open until November 23, follows the Trump administration's push to redraw the boundaries of several national monuments in the interest of those who Zinke said "rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses and recreation". The parks are a shared national treasure, and just as we should all be able to share equally in the benefits they bring, so too should we share the cost of maintaining them. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Officials said the price increases would be implemented at some of the country's most popular national parks, including Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Yosemite and Yellowstone.

"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 unbelievable destinations they are visiting", he said in a statement.

According to the NPS the total deferred maintenance backlog is $11.3 billion. On top of that, Donald Trump's budget cuts reduce the National Park Service's funding by 13 percent, add another $30 million to deferred maintenance costs, and eliminate over 1,000 National Park Service jobs. Grand Canyon had 6 million visitors in 2016, up from 2.3 million in 1980.

"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", NPS spokesman Jeremy Barnum told NPR.

He says the fee increase would only have limited impact, and that entrance fees to the parks haven't kept pace with inflation. "If the administration wants to support national parks, it needs to walk the walk and work with Congress to address the maintenance backlog". Research has shown that entrance fees are associated with "significant but small" drops in park attendance.

The proposal would not affect several free weekends and holidays at parks throughout the year. Annual passes for federal lands would remain the same, costing $80 per vehicle.

The fee increase would be the first since 2015, when 130 National Parks raised fees, some up to 200 percent. Rather than pay that outrageous fee, many families would simply stay home, and that would be a shame.

"If they're going to jack you up to get into places like Shenandoah and Yellowstone, its a better deal to get a pass for all of them at once", said one man at Shenandoah's Thornton Gap entry station as he reached for his credit card.

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