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!
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
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.