Fee increases considered for Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain National Parks

Published: Oct. 24, 2017 at 6:23 PM CDT
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The National Park Service is floating a steep increase in entrance fees at 17 of its most popular parks, mostly in the West, to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects.

Visitors to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, and other national parks would be charged $70 per vehicle, up from the current fee of $30 for a weekly pass. At others, the hike is nearly triple, from $25 to $70 during “peak season”:

May 1 to Sept. 30: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion.

June 1 to Oct. 30: Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah.

Jan 1 to May 31: Joshua Tree.

For the rest of the year, the fees would remain as the current rate of $25 to $30 per car depending on the park.

A 30-day public comment period opened Tuesday.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says the entrance fee increases will help restore and renovate the park units.

"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," he said in a statement. "Shoring up our parks' aging infrastructure will do that."

The proposal comes not long after many of the parks that charge entrance fees upped them. The rationale is the same this time around - to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects.

The Park Service estimated deferred maintenance across its sites at $11.3 billion as of September 2016, down from $11.9 billion in 2015.

The Park Service says it expects to raise $70 million a year with the latest proposal at a time when national parks repeatedly have been breaking visitation records and putting a strain on park resources. Nearly 6 million people visited the Grand Canyon last year.

The higher fees would apply during the five busiest, contiguous months. For most, that means May through September when many families are on vacation.

Kevin Dahl, Arizona senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said maintenance costs should fall to Congress, not visitors.

"We've supported increases at the parks, they are a huge value for the price of entrance," he said. "But we want to look closely at this and we want local communities to look closely at this to see if it would impact visitation because we don't want to price people out of the parks."

Not all Park Service sites charge entrance fees. The 118 that do keep 80 percent of revenue and send 20 percent into a pot to help all park units with things like

The entrance fee proposal applies to Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Zion in Utah; Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Joshua Tree in California; Grand Teton and Yellowstone in Wyoming; Mount Rainier and Olympic in Washington; Shenandoah in Virginia; Acadia in Maine; Rocky Mountain in Colorado; and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Fees also would go up for pedestrians and motorcyclists. Annual passes for federal lands would be unchanged at $80.