Public Comment Period on the Peak-Season Entrance Fee Now Open

Hiking at Zion National Park near Bryce Canyon

There is a proposal up in the air that would increase the price of admission in 17 national parks to over double, in some cases nearly triple, of what they are currently. These increases would only be in effect during the busiest times of the year, usually from May until September. To gain the public’s opinion on this matter, there is a public comment period, which is open now, for concerned people to voice their opinion on the matter. This comment period opened on Tuesday, October 23rd and will close on Thursday, November 24th.

There are many aspects of this proposed price increase that should be considered, including how the price increase would work, the positive things the extra funds would do, and what the possible issues with the price increase could be. These important points can help those just learning about the proposed increase to make an informed decision on the matter and comment their opinion to the National Park Service.

Explaining the Price Increase

Currently, there are 118 park service sites that charge some kind of entrance fee to enjoy their park. These fees range from a few dollars to over $30. At 17 of these admission-charging parks, the price is proposed to increase drastically during peak visitation months. For parks like Zion National Park and Grand Canyon, the price per vehicle would go up from $30 to $70, that’s an increase of over double the cost. A few other parks are proposing to increase their price by nearly triple, from $25 to $70 per vehicle. This per vehicle fee, in most parks, allows entry to the park for an entire week.

Parkgoers would still be able to purchase an annual pass for $80, and that price is not proposed to increase in the near future. The free weekends hosted by the National Park Service would remain in effect, as well. This means that there are still ways to get into these 17 parks without breaking the bank.

Positive Uses for Extra Funds

The proposed price increase is expected to earn about $70 million more for the parks annually. This money would go toward doing many incredible things throughout not only the parks with the fee increase but also parks and sites that do not charge admission fees.

National parks and park service sites have been experiencing an increase in attendance for the past few years. These record-breaking numbers have put a strain on the parks, park facilities, and the park staff. The extra funds raised by this price increase would help greatly to preserve the beauty of the parks for generations to come, improve the current services at the parks, and make the parks even more appealing, allowing them to attract more interested visitors. Without these extra funds, if the attendance rates continue to skyrocket, the NPS may not have the money needed to keep the parks in the pristine state they are meant to be in.

Of the funds raised from this proposed price increase, 80% of them would go directly to the park while 20% would go to other sites across the country that do not charge fees. This money is a big part of the reason these smaller parks can stay open. These smaller areas allow more people to get out and enjoy nature without traveling far from home or spending a lot of money on a trip. Without these areas, many people would not have access to secluded areas of nature.

While shelling out more money to enjoy a national park may seem like a hassle, when considering all the great things that can come from this extra money, many people will consider this extra expense to be well worth it.

Possible Issues with Price Increases

While there are many positive aspects to the price increases, many people are worried about the issues that can come from this proposal. These worries include concerns about how the money will be used and the impact on those who will be able to attend the parks.

If the money received from this increase goes toward all the areas of the park they are supposed to, the overall experience at parks across the country should be much better. Restrooms and other public use areas should be restored, walking trails should be cleared, and there should be more programs and sites for visitors to enjoy. If this money does not go to its intended use, and visitors are paying extra money for the same experience, the price increase will hardly seem worth it.

Another concern is that raising the price of admission to parks will be yet another barrier to entry for the groups of people who need time in national parks the most. Families with many children, low-income families, and the aging generation may not be able to afford to enjoy these parks if the price goes up. This would mean that a price increase could completely exclude some of the country’s most important groups.

A rise in price could stop more than just large families, low-income groups, and the elderly from traveling to the parks. The high cost could be enough to deter many people from visiting. If that were the case, the attendance to these parks could decline drastically. A huge decline, especially during a time where parks have been experiencing record-breaking numbers, would be devastating.

Comment on the Increase Today

It is the job of concerned citizens to gather all the information they can and weigh these positive and negatives to form an educated opinion on this matter. Those interested can post a comment on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website until Thursday, November 24th.

For those who prefer to mail in their response, a comment can be sent to:
1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346
Washington, D.C. 20240.

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