Bad news, nature lovers: the National Park Service has slashed its no-cost admission days by 60 percent for 2018.
On Dec. 12, the NPS announced that visitors will be welcomed free of charge on just four days of the New Year — Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 15; the first day of National Park Week, April 21; National Public Lands Day, Sept. 22; and Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
The decree applies to 118 of the 417 national parks that charge an entry fee, including beloved preserves such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion.
While the NPS did not explicitly state in the press release why it is slimming down on its free admission days, the decision sharply contrasts policy of recent years. According to the Associated Press, there were 10 no-cost days honored in 2017 and 16 no-cost days in 2016, in celebration of the NPS’ centenary.
The news comes just days after President Trump’s controversial decision to shrink two of Utah’s national monuments, which has further outraged conservation groups who disagree with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s plan to raise entrance fees at 17 of the busiest national parks since the fall.
“Not everyone can book a helicopter or charter or a boat when they want to visit our national parks,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn of the Center for Western Priorities. “America’s parks must remain affordable for working families.”
According to supporters of the measure, the reduction of free admission days is aimed at generating more revenue to address the backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects at the parks, which are in the midst of a tourism boom. The NPS welcomed a record number of visitors in 2016, with over 331 million guests frequenting the parks.
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