National Park Service considering hiking entry fees at 17 parks

In order to generate revenue for desperately needed maintenance projects, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) announced on Oct. 24 that they are considering raising entry fees at 17 of their 59 parks during peak visitation season. Further, the NPS has opened a 30-day period for public comment to debate the matter.

“We need to have a vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a statement. “Shoring up our parks’ aging infrastructure will do that.”

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In addition to hiking admission fees at the highly-frequented Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion National Parks, the plan would raise the price of entry at Utah’s Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Zion parks; California’s Sequoia & Kings Canyon and Joshua Tree parks; Montana’s Glacier; Wyoming’s Grand Teton; Washington’s Mount Rainier and Olympic; as well as Shenandoah in Virginia; Acadia in Maine; Rocky Mountain in Colorado; and Denali in Alaska.

Under the proposed plan, the NPS would charge $70 per vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person during each park’s peak visitation season, which most commonly runs from May to September. Revenue would be used to restore and improve facilities, infrastructure and visitor services, with an emphasis on deferred maintenance projects.

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While the announcement was met with mixed reactions on social media, the president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association — a independent, non-partisan group that works to "strengthen and protect America's favorite places" — immediately slammed the proposal.

"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," said Theresa Pierno in a statement. "The solution to our parks' repair needs cannot and should not be largely shouldered by its visitors."

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Moving forward, Pierno suggested that Congress should help shoulder the maintenance backlog, regarding the billions of dollars that many national parks need in repairs.

Ultimately, whether or not entry fees are raised at the 17 parks, the NPS is celebrating something of a tourism boom. According to its website, in 2016, the NPS set a record for recreation visits for the third year running with over 331 million visitors.