Parks Raise Entrance Fees to Address Maintenance Backlog

Several months ago I talked about the proposed peak season entrance fee increase and shared my support for it. The entrance fee increase was proposed to address the National Park Service’s 11.6 Billion Dollar Maintenance Backlog. This month the NPS announced that they indeed would be raising entrance fees, but not as steeply as originally stated.

Out of the 417 lands that the National Park Service manages, only 117 of them charge fees. Instead of raising the entrance fee to $70 at only 17 parks for part of the year, all 117 parks that charge fees will be increasing their prices by $5. This includes the motor vehicle pass, park annual pass, individual pass, and motorcycle pass. All of these increases will be effective immediately on June 1. Commercial tour fees will also be increasing at some point this year, but the exact change and the date have not yet been announced. The only price that would not change would be for that of the Interagency Annual Pass. These passes will still be $80 and still at all Federal Fee Areas (not just those managed by the NPS) for one year. All of the fees collected at the parks stay within the National Park Service, with 80% staying inside the park they were collected and 20% going towards those parks that don’t charge fees.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke explained the increase by saying, “An investment in our parks is an investment in America. Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality. I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal. 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. The $11.6 billion maintenance backlog isn’t going to be solved overnight and will require a multi-tiered approach as we work to provide badly needed revenue to repair infrastructure. This is just one of the ways we are carrying out our commitment to ensure that national parks remain world class destinations that provide an excellent value for families from all income levels.”

While I still support the fee increase, what sets this one apart from the originally proposed plan is that it does nothing to address the unsustainable visitation issues that parks across the US are facing. If you don’t know what I am referring to, I have several blogs in which I discuss these issues. The original plan only had fee increases for the 17 highest visited parks and only for peak season, in an effort to steer people towards other parks and even out the visitation amongst the parks. However, this more modest increase is much more palatable to the American people and results in higher revenues. To be specific The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million. We will just have find other solutions for our visitation issues.