Proposed National Park Fee Increase

Absarokanaut

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I have said this before so forgive me. I am one that believes there is no "benifit of all" if any family is forced to choose between groceries and simple entry to our National Parks. National Park, Monument, etc. fees contribute very little to the NPS budget. Come on folks, priorities.
 

Wanderlust073

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You can't budget your way out of overcrowding. It's financial disincentive (I paid for this park!), or flat out refusal once a capacity is reached (I paid for this park!), or continue to let them be overrun and ruined (I paid you to maintain this park!).

Lose, lose, lose.

edit: oh, I see they are claiming it's for maintenance funds. Hrm...
 

Wanderlust073

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I think this is a dodge, and their intent is to reduce visitation. NPS has been on about it for some time, quite vocal in the last few years. These fee increases would barely put a dent in the maintenance
backlog.
 

Jackson

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Just go the Ed Abbey route. No cars in national parks. On bike and on foot only. That would sure reduce the wear on infrastructure.

But in seriousness, this seems a bit excessive. Sure, compared with a one-day trip to Disney or somewhere similar, it's a great value. Disney is not a public resource though. Maybe if Congress reduced some spending elsewhere, they could give some of the savings to the NPS. Probably unlikely to happen.

I didn't set foot in a paid park within the last year, so I guess I'll just continue to avoid them with a few exceptions.
 

Kishenehn

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I think this is a political move, rather than one related either to economics or visitor numbers ... but it's definitely also a reflection of the current administration's plans to further reduce the Park Service budget.

For many folks, the primary result of this would probably be to convince them to buy the $80 nationwide park pass, rather than pay individual park entrance fees ... and if that happens, it's not going to help the revenue streams of individual parks all that much. It might hurt some of them, in fact. And having an increased number of annual pass sales could actually increase visitation and overcrowding -- if you've bought an admission ticket good for all the parks for the whole year, you might as well use it every chance you can.

And as so often happens in America, the lower-income folks will be the only ones who really suffer because of this.
 

Scott Chandler

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Fun fact: Annual Pass funds see less return to the parks they were bought in than general admittance, a piece the PA left out.

More fun facts: The current administration is shrinking the NPS budget by $400,000,000 (the zeros sure make it look dramatic) for next year. The NPS maintenance backlog is just over $11,000,000,000 (whoa more zeros, up in the billions there.) According to the PA, which doesn't detail how it came up with this number, this fee increase will generate an extra $70,000,000 (huh, that has fewer zeros.)

More more fun sorta fact: Talking with fellows from Arches and Canyonlands, anywhere from 50-80% of their visitors show the annual pass. Interestingly, this is the same as how many try to use it or bring it up at Dead Horse Point State Park. In contrast, we at the Point see maybe five state park annual passes a week. This illustrates how much people love the national parks and the value of the pass. For $80 you can visit all NPS units with a fee, visiting 3 Utah National Parks has met the value of the pass. The state park annual pass is $70, meaning it is about 5-7 state parks to hit that. Probably more common up north where there are more state parks and boaters, but the value doesn't seem to be there for those visiting us. I would be interested to see solid numbers on general vs annual pass admittance for every one of the parks affected by this.

More more more fun fact: The "peak season" as outlined in this PA isn't even correct. Arches and Canyonlands have bimodal peak seasons, spring and fall, with a definite decrease, while still being high but with an increase in annual pass usage from what I've gotten out of them, during the summer. So the spring craziness would be unaffected by this around here. Zion is nuts from March to November now, so again, missing spring. Grand Canyon is crazy year round... Flip side, Denali is only "busy" from May to September because that is when the buses roll. So Denali's prices basically just rise.

Speaking of, I found this interesting. Because Denali was established so early, it is the national park in Alaska with an entrance fee. Most don't realize this because it is worked into their bus ticket. $10 on top of their $26-51 transit fare or $80-200 narrated tour fare. With this fee increase it will now cost $100 to almost $300 to visit Denali. Sure hope the rangers turn all the clouds off so that the mountain is visible.

I have never commented on so many government actions before. Yet again, these are OUR public lands, so regardless of opinion YOUR VOICE MATTERS. I encourage everyone to comment: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=442&projectID=75576&documentID=83652

Personally, I don't believe anyone should have to consider any of these even a "once in a while" experience.
Saddle Mtn-51.jpg
1-13 Druid Arch-56.jpg
Delicate & Syncline-23.jpg
Zion in the Mist-19.jpg
 

Wanderlust073

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In what sense do you see it as a political move? The previous administration also cut the NPS budget. The budget gets cut by anyone and everyone because there is no voter reaction to it of any consequence in order to prevent it from happening again and again.

$80 annual park pass is only $60 more than a day pass to RMNP. It is only $50 more than a week's pass to RMNP. It is only $20 more than an annual pass to RMNP. So for an extra $50 or an extra $20 people don't want annual access to all parks nationwide, but if it's only an extra $10 the annual passes will be flying off the shelves? Seems unlikely.

I also seriously doubt that there is anyone whose situation is so tight that they are debating between buying groceries for the week or going to a national park. Having grown up in that situation, I can tell you that's a nonsensical hypothetical. There is an amount of disposable income that must be reached before things like this are even considered options.

Free parks for everyone sounds good on paper, like free anything always does. But, as has been seen time and again, everyone's for 'free' until it comes time to vote themselves the tax increases to pay for it. Personally I'd only be for free park access if it came with strict caps on visitation and excluded free access for commercial tour operators.
 
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swmalone

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My wife and I have purchased the annual pass for years. Sometimes it is a great value because we use it at several locations, and other times we visit only one or two parks. I have family members that don't/won't/can't visit national parks now with the current price structure so with this increase it will make it that way for even more families. We were in Yellowstone a couple of weeks ago and considering how late in the season it was I was amazed at how crowded it seemed, primarily large tour buses. There were a lot of comments on KSL about charging foreigners more to visit than American citizens, and I have heard that some countries do similar things. I don't have enough information to know if that would be a good idea or not, but it seems that if you are planning an international trip going from from $35 a week to $70 will most likely impact your overall trip budget a lot less than the person that only lives 20 miles away but has trouble staying on top of the bills let alone planning a family vacation.
 

Sullyute

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It is interesting that all of the museums and national monuments in DC are free, where law makers spend most of their time, but cost money every where else. I would be interested to see what the cost of the attractions in DC are in comparison to the whole park service budget. Maybe I am talking apples and oranges here. I would pay more in taxes if I knew it was going directly to the NPS.


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Rockskipper

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I also seriously doubt that there is anyone whose situation is so tight that they are debating between buying groceries for the week or going to a national park. Having grown up in that situation, I can tell you that's a nonsensical hypothetical. There is an amount of disposable income that must be reached before things like this are even considered options.
I don't consider this hypothetical. I have personally not gone to the parks because of the costs, even though I lived nearby in Moab, and would have loved to go, especially during times of weather when the photography is great. I have family that are students in nearby Grand Junction and consider it a big deal to be able to go to the parks, just because of the fees. Sometimes it's all they can do to get gas money to go camping. With the economy like it is, I would suspect a number of more local people don't consider visiting the parks because of the high entrance fees. It's sad, because those in the lower income brackets are often minorities, and it would be nice if we had their support for the parks and wilderness areas. In their worlds, these places don't even exist if they're poor.
 

Wanderlust073

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There's no 'choice' between buying groceries and a visit to a national park.

"Hmm, I don't know if I can make it without food for 7 days but damn I sure would like to go take a peek at old faithful. Decisions, decisions..." - No one, ever

Sure, if money's tight and I can't spare twenty bucks to spend Saturday at a national park that sucks. And if I've got twenty bucks to spare and they just raised the fee to forty and now I can't afford it, well that sucks too. But both of those scenarios presuppose having some amount of extra money to begin with because the parks aren't free to anyone, rich poor or otherwise. It would be nice if everyone could afford everything they want in life. But that's not life.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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Lots of great thoughts in the above comments. It seems to me that the NPS may be playing the only hand that was dealt. As congress continues to reduce funding for NPS and other seemingly frivolous things (in their minds), agencies have to try to make up the difference. Raising fees is a valid option.

I agree that $70 is a lot to drive around in a park for a day, but since the pass is good for a week, the cost for a few days or a week is pretty minor. Driving through Grand Teton and Yellowstone in a day will be $140 unless they have a reduced rate for hitting both parks (which I think they have now). But then you consider the Annual Pass for $80 and it's still a bargain, a huge bargain if you frequent the park system.

The onus is on NPS to spend the money they receive in a wise manner, which is up for debate. Having worked for NPS in the past, they make some crazy decisions when it comes to where to spend money but overall, I think they do pretty well on their expenditures for capital improvements. I'm sure we can all find some absolutely ridiculous projects that have sucked up precious dollars but in the big picture, they seem to do pretty well. The thought of closing the Grand Prismatic boardwalk (for example) due to no money to maintain it would be pretty sad. And yes, I know that many other places in Yellowstone would be closed before Grand Prismatic, unless the NPS really wanted to make a political statement.

Back in the day when I was pretty cash-strapped, I would camp outside Yellowstone and wake up early to drive into the park before the entrances were open. Now that I have some discretionary income, $80 for a pass is worth every penny.

Some days, when I am in a more anarchistic mood, I think that the infrastructure should be allowed to fail and if decrepit toilets keep the visitation down, then so much the better. Of course, in reality, that fails in so many ways.
 

Wyatt Carson

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Lots of great thoughts in the above comments. It seems to me that the NPS may be playing the only hand that was dealt. As congress continues to reduce funding for NPS and other seemingly frivolous things (in their minds), agencies have to try to make up the difference. Raising fees is a valid option.

I agree that $70 is a lot to drive around in a park for a day, but since the pass is good for a week, the cost for a few days or a week is pretty minor. Driving through Grand Teton and Yellowstone in a day will be $140 unless they have a reduced rate for hitting both parks (which I think they have now). But then you consider the Annual Pass for $80 and it's still a bargain, a huge bargain if you frequent the park system.

Yes, they are going to have to try and make up some of the difference somewhere.

And I have always thought that the $80/year Park Pass was an unbelievable bargain for access to the western Parks alone. Without a certain amount of infrastructure they would be destroyed in short order and that has to be paid for on the front end or the back end. Most of the vast National Forests and BLM Public Lands are still fee free unless you have to be in a public campground.

If I recall you do get more than one day with a Park Pass, maybe up to a week? So you can go in and out if that is your style. You know, plush hotels and 5* restaurants between the nature trails. LOL
 
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