Substantially less than original plan
While the National Park Service will be increasing park entrance fees and vehicle passes beginning June 1, the increase is substantially less than originally proposed in October 2017.
The massive public response, more than 100,000 comments, to the proposed increases at 17 highly visited parks appears to have been heard and resulted in the adjustments.
For example, the current vehicle entrance fee at Joshua Tree National Park is $25. Beginning June 1, it will increase $5 to $30. In October, NPS proposed increasing it to $70 between Jan. 1 and May 31.
For individuals not in a vehicle, the fee will increase from $12 per person to $15, half the initial proposal. Entrance fees for motorcycles and the Annual Pass also increase, but not as much as the fall proposal. The entrance fee for a motorcycle will be $25, up from the current $12 fee. The Annual Pass will be $55, compared to the current pass cost of $40.
The October proposal was aimed specifically at the 17 most visited parks. While these proposed fees were modified, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledged that the volume of public comment affected the final decision, As a result, the agency has spread the smaller fee increases across the entire NPS system.
“I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal. Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases at the 117 fee-charging parks as opposed to larger increases proposed for 17 highly-visited national parks,” Zinke said in a press release.
Overall, the fee increases are expected to generate $60 million in additional revenue. All of the revenue from the fee increases will remain in the NPS with at least 80 percent of the money staying in the park where it is collected.
“Repairing infrastructure is also about access for all Americans,” Zinke said in the release. “Not all visitors to our parks have the ability to hike with a 30-pound pack and camp in the wilderness miles away from utilities.”
In a Sierra Club press release, John Garder, senior director of budget and appropriations at the National Parks Conservation Association, said, “The fees will be helpful for addressing park maintenance and other needs that improve the visiting experience but given the scope of park maintenance and other funding needs, more robust solutions are needed.”
NPS has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Some parks not yet aligned with the other parks in their category will raise their fees incrementally and fully incorporate the new entrance fee schedule by January 1, 2020.