National Parks Want A Massive Fee Increase

On October 24, 2017 the National Park Service issued an announcement that they want to implement a huge “targeted” increase in entrance fees at the most popular National Parks. Their “target”? Families whose vacation schedules are tied to the school calendar, lower-income visitors, and your wallet! These 17 parks would charge a premium entry fee during their peak season, more than doubling the current cost of a single-visit entry to $70!

The parks involved, along with their peak season when the increase would be in effect are:

– May 1-September 30 for Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Denali National Park, Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Olympic National Park, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park
– June 1-October 31 for Acadia National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Shenandoah National Park
– January 1-May 31 for Joshua Tree National Park

An annual peak-season multi-visit pass to a single park would cost $75. But let’s be realistic: nobody who can afford $70 or $75 will pay it to visit a single Park! They will instead buy an annual all-Parks, all-seasons “America the Beautiful” pass for $80. For only $5 or $10 more (for now) than the single-visit or single-Park fee, you can visit all the Parks all year long. Clearly, that $80 price won’t last long – you can bet they’ll be raising it sooner rather than later and by a substantial amount – think double or even triple!

The justification cited for this massive increase is to address backlogged maintenance. But the NPS only anticipates that it will raise an additional $68 million – which would barely touch their claimed backlog of $12 BILLION. They haven’t revealed how they calculated that $68 million, but given that most people can be expected to buy an America the Beautiful Pass, their estimate is probably wildly optimistic.

The revenue from annual pass sales stays at the site where the pass is purchased, even if that’s a Forest Service, BLM, or other non-NPS site, or an NPS site that’s not increasing entrance fees, so many Parks will miss out on the hoped-for funding. At the same time, basic economics says that raising the price will deter visitation, especially by families and lower-income visitors – groups that the Parks claim to be trying to attract.

The bottom line? America’s best places at the most desirable times of the year would only be available to the wealthiest few.

Immediately after the announcement some people began spouting the tired old analogy that the National Parks are a  “bargain” compared to Disneyland or taking the family to a movie. That analogy has been repeated in Congress and by various organizations since at least 1985. But the National Parks and Disneyland are NOT comparable. Once you start comparing them, you cheapen the value of the Parks to the level of Disneyland.

You would think that the National Park Service, the very people charged with protecting the resources and values that are why we have National Parks in the first place, would understand that. Instead, they are now promoting the Disney analogy themselves. Park Service spokesperson Jeremy Barnum has been quoted in the press as saying,

“the proposed figures were determined by analyzing historical NPS data sets and the cost of admission at other ‘family attractions’ like amusement parks. (A one-day ticket to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom costs $124, for instance.)”

No, Mr Barnum, our National Parks were not established to be “family attractions” and they certainly are not amusement parks. Shame on you!


UPDATE On November 20, two days before the original deadline, the NPS quietly updated their comment site to extend the deadline to December 22.  You can comment online or find the information on where to send a written comment at this NPS website.

But because the NPS has a long history of ignoring and distorting public comments, you should also contact your U.S. Representative and both of your U.S. Senators. You can submit your comments at their online constituent input form or you can phone their offices, which will get more immediate attention. Keep your comments short, polite, and to the point. This is NOT a partisan issue, so please don’t hesitate to contact them even if you are not of their political persuasion, and don’t bring your opinion on other issues into it.

Besides contacting your own elected officials, you should let your views be known to the leadership of the oversight committees and subcommittees. You can only contact them online if you are a constituent, but anyone can telephone them. Here is the contact information:

Chair, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Lisa Murkowski (AK) 202-224-6665
Ranking Member, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (WA) 202-224-3441

Chair, Senate Subcommittee on National Parks Steve Daines (MT) 202-224-2651
Ranking Member, Senate Subcommittee on National Parks Mazie Hirono (HI) 202-224-6361

Chair, House Natural Resources Committee Rob Bishop (UT) 202-225-0453
Ranking Member, House Natural Resources Committee Raul Grijalva (AZ) 202-225-2435

Chair, House Federal Lands Subcommittee Tom McClintock (CA) 202-225-2511
Ranking Member, House Federal Lands Subcommittee Colleen Hanabusa (HI) 202-225-2726


Thanks for taking immediate action! Here are documents explaining the proposal in more detail.


2017 06 25 BACKGROUND The Guardian re park privatization

2017 10 24 Associated Press

2017 10 24 The Denver Post

2017 10 24 Washingtonian

2017 10 25 CNN

2017 10 25 Fortune

2017 10 25 Salt Lake City Tribune

2017 10 25 Boston Globe

2017 10 25 The Mary Sue

2017 10 25 Think Progress

2017 10 26 Democratic Senators Letter

2017 10 26 E&E News

2017 10 27 High Country News

2017 10 27 The Onion

2017 10 27 Seattle Post Intelligencer

2017 10 27 Denver Post Editorial

2017 10 27 Pasadena Star-News Editorial

2017 10 29 National Parks Traveler Editorial

2017 10 29 Daily Interlake Editorial (MT)

2017 10 31 Making The Parks Whiter The Washington Post

2017 11 02 Greene County VA Article

2017 11 02 Greene County VA Editorial

2017 11 03 New York Times Opinion

2017 11 03 The Village Voice

2017 11 03 The Desert Sun

2017 11 03 The Denver Post

2017 11 03 San Antonio Express-News Editorial

2017 11 03 Huffington Post

2017 11 03 Kaweah Commonwealth (Sequoia-Kings Canyon)

2017 11 04 Great Falls MT Tribune

2017 11 05 The Daily Dot

2017 11 05 Fresno Bee Editorial

2017 11 05 Olympic Peninsula Daily News Editorial

2017 11 05 Ravalli Republic (MT) Editorial

2017 11 06 Kennewick WA Editorial

2017 11 08 The Guardian

2017 11 09 Boulder Weekly

2017 11 13 Colorado Springs Gazette

2017 11 13 Coalition to Protect National Parks

2017 11 13 HuffPost

2017 11 13 The Hill

2017 11 13 Pacific Standard

2017 11 14 Republican Senators Letter

2017 11 14 Explore Big Sky (MT)

2017 11 15 Estes Park News

2017 11 15 Foothills Sun-Gazette (CA)

2017 11 15 Sequim Gazette (WA)

2017 11 16 Boulder Weekly

2017 11 16 Bozeman Radio

2017 11 16 St George News (UT)

2017 11 16 St George News Comment

2017 11 16 Town of Lyons CO Letter

2017 11 17 Boulder Daily Camera

2017 11 17 Salt Lake Tribune

2017 11 18 Desert Sun CA

2017 11 20 Seattle Channel 5

2017 11 20 The Desert Sun CA

2017 11 21 The Seattle Times

2017 11 21 Senator Bennet (CO) Letter

2017 11 25 Arizona Daily Independent

2017 11 27 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

2017 11 27 U of Montana Study

2017 12 01 Flathead Beacon MT

2017 12 01 Washington Post

2017 12 13 CBS News

2017 12 14 High Country News

2017 12 14 The Coloradan

2017 12 19 Bangor Daily News