Thursday, November 02, 2017

Entry Fees to Popular U.S. National Parks Could Rise Dramatically


The U.S. Department of the Interior has been taking some unusual steps with how it is handling America's national parks and monuments. From shrinking the size of the Bears Ears to proposing the biggest oil and gas lease ever in the Gulf of Mexico, the stance of the current administration on its approach to the environment is clear. But now, there is another proposal in the works that is likely to hit travelers squarely in the wallet. 

Last week, the Trump Administration shared a plan that would raise the entry fee to 17 of America's most popular national parks. In most cases, the price would climb to $70 for a pass, which is good for a week. That is roughly double the current entry fee, which is about $35 for most of the parks on the list.

The idea behind the rate hike is to raise more money for the National Park Service, which currently has a backload of about $11.3 billion in repairs. That is a significant amount of work that needs to be done in the parks, which have had to deal with budget shortfalls for sometime now. Reportedly, the fees would go directly to helping overcome these issues, helping to maintain the parks to a much higher degree. 

The 17 parks that are likely to see a rise in entry fee costs include the following: Acadia, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion. 

On the one hand, doubling the price of the entrance fee is a considerable jump in expenditure for anyone visiting these national parks, which are popular destinations for family vacations during the summer. On the other hand, $70 for a week's worth of exploration in one of these outdoor playgrounds is still a bargain in my opinion. For a single day, it is indeed a lot to pay, but if you'll be going in and out of the park several times, it isn't quite so bad. Also, an annual pass to each and every national park is just $80, and is expected to remain the same price. (Remember, all 4th graders and their families can also get in for free.)

While generally I'm not a big fan of such a steep rate increase, if the money does indeed go directly to helping the parks overcome budget shortfalls and make some much needed repairs, I think it is a worthy cause. These places need to be protected and preserved, and that has become increasingly more challenging with in today's financial environment. Hopefully any new funding that comes from the rate hike does indeed go directly to those needs. 

The downside of the increased fees is the tit may keep some people out of the parks who would like to visit them. These are public lands that should be easily accessible to all, but unfortunately doubling the entry fee may keep some folks out. Hopefully that won't be the case, but we'll just have to wait to see. The national parks have had no shortage of visitors in recent years, but this proposal could cause number to drop, which might not be a bad thing in some of the more crowded and popular ones. 

If you're planning a trip to some national parks in 2018 – as I am – you'll definitely want to keep an eye on this developing story. It seems likely that the rate increase will happen, which makes the annual pass that much more appealing. 

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