It may cost more than twice as much to go to some national parks, if a proposed fee increase goes through.
The National Park Service is asking for public comments on increases to fees at “highly-visited national parks” during peak tourist season. The revenue is needed, they say, to improve infrastructure at the parks, including roads, bridges, campgrounds, bathrooms and other visitor services.
“Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure tha they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations the are visiting,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
The new fee would be $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass to any of the 17 parks would cost $75.
The current fee is $30 per car, $25 per motorcycle and $15 per person. This would be the second increase in two years, as well; before 2015, it was $20 per car. In 1997, a seven-day pass to Yosemite National Park was $5.
The proposal also increases entry and permit fees for commercial tours.
The new fees would affect the following national parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion, beginning in May 2018. Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Shenandoah would increase in June 2018, and Joshua Tree “as soon as practicable” in 2018.
Local National Parks sites such as the Gateway Arch would not be affected. The National Parks Service manages 417 park sites, of which 118 charge an entrance fee, according to the NPS.
In May, the park service increased the lifetime pass for senior citizens from $10 to $80.
One thing will remain the same: the annual America the Beautiful pass, which provides entrance to all national parks and federal recreation lands for a year, will stay at $80. No entrance fee is charged to visitors under age 16 or who hold a senior, military, access, volunteer or “Every Kid in a Park” pass.
According to an analysis by Pacific Standard Magazine, the National Park Service is deluged with 330 million visitors a year at parks that keep getting more popular, but has a $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Meanwhile, the pending federal budget would cut the National Park Service’s discretionary budget by 13 percent and lay off 1,200 employees in the next fiscal year. The New York Times reports that some parks are considering requiring reservations to enter the parks due to overcrowding.
The public is invited to comment on the proposed fees. Public comment will be accepted at the National Parks Service website online, or can be mailed to National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street NW, Mail Stop: 2346, Washington, DC 20240.