Zion NP Raising Entrance Fees

Dollar_sign_copy Earlier this week I mentioned fee creep in the national parks. In addressing the $80 America the Beautiful Pass, I wondered whether we'll see some hike in daily, weekly or annual entrance fees to parks around the nation.
After all, I noted, the ATB pass effectively raises the ceiling for national park entrance fees, since the outgoing National Parks Pass cost $50 and the new ATB pass represents a whopping 60 percent increase.

Well, officials at Zion National Park appear to be among the first in the park system to announce a hike in their entrance fees. Beginning January 1, it will cost you $25 to get into the park via the Springdale entrance, an increase of 25 percent from the current $20 fee. Those who walk or bike in also will be charged more -- $12, up from the outgoing $10 fee. Both passes are good for seven days.
Now, if you're only planning to visit Zion's Kolob Canyon section, the entrance fee increase is more than 200 percent! The old $10 fee is being replaced by the $25 charge. Of course, that pass will get you through the Springdale entrance as well, but if you're only planning to hike into the Kolob Canyons backcountry that increase seems pretty significant.

What will be interesting to see in the coming year is how Americans react to these higher fees. Are we so desensitized to increases that we'll just pony up the extra money without thinking? Will we go along with the belief held by many that the national parks continue to be an incredible bargain even under the increases? Or will visitation to national parks fall as folks decide to spend their money on other attractions?
Tomorrow I'll have the results from my latest poll question, on whether the $80 fee for the ATB pass is reasonable. Here's a sneak preview: So far nearly 75 percent of the respondents say "no."
What's just a tad disturbing is that the folks in Interior, while indicating that they're concerned about park visitation numbers, apparently ignored their own consultants when they settled on the $80 fee. According to U.S. Senator Craig Thomas, the University of Wyoming analysts who studied the proposed fee determined that most folks would balk at a fee above $70 for an annual pass.
Now, maybe the $80 sticker will indeed shock folks...to the benefit of some parks. Unless you travel a lot and plan to visit more than two or three parks, you might just forgo the America the Beautiful Pass and either pay the weekly entrance fee, which seems to be hovering around $25, or buy an annual pass to your favorite park, which will be less than the ATB pass.
Those trends possibly could help individual parks when the day arrives that all revenues from ATB sales are pooled in Washington and doled out to parks, forests, BLM lands and other public land agencies under a formula yet to be devised.
But what about those who believe entrance to national parks should be free? What would happen if that came about?
Scott Silver, executive director of Wild Wilderness, has compiled some interesting data that indicate visitation would go up. For instance, he points out, when entrance fees to California state parks went down, visitation went up. When Washington State instituted parking fees at its state parks, visitation went down. The Canadian government also has concluded that parking meters in their provincial parks are responsible for reduced visitation.
Lastly, Scott refers to a story from England about the elimination of museum entrance fees and a related jump in visitation.
You can read Scott's research here.
Of course, if entrance fees to national parks were abolished and Congress didn't respond with a more generous appropriation, park conditions no doubt would suffer. So what's the solution?
Do we simply keep digging deeper and deeper into our individual pockets as Congress continues to short-change the parks and forces the Park Service to resort to higher and higher fees or more and more fees on activities that previously were free?
Or do we gamble that with no entrance fees folks would willingly donate to the parks? That's an admirable idea, but I don't think it'd generate enough money in the long run to do much good.
I don't have an answer to this problem. But I think it is a problem that deserves some serious attention and offers Mary a perfect opportunity to get the ball moving. Perhaps she already is, in that the president directed Dirk who directed Mary to begin planning for the National Park Service's centennial in 2016, a mere nine years down the pike.
Part of the planning for that gala event should entail making the park system financially sound. That seems to me to be a pretty obvious goal.
Back in October I ruminated some on the Park Service's financial plight. In that post I outlined the National Park Conservation Association's five-step program for healing the agency, pointed to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees' suggestion that a blue-ribbon commission be named to look into how the park system can best be managed, and tossed in some of my own ideas as to how the Park Service's coffers could be bolstered.
Why revisit that post? Because I think the Park Service's financial plight is that important, and the only solution Washington seems to have is higher fees.
That's not very imaginative and, in the long run, I don't think it's the solution to preserving our national parks for today's and tomorrow's generations.

Comments

WAAAAAA!!! I just happened upon this site perusing info on our National Parks.... $80 is CHEAP...how much do you spend on BEER in a year? How about the movies, (theatre or rental)? How much do you spend on cable...where I live it's $70 a MONTH! How about eating out at restaurants?? If you smoke, how much in cigarettes? How about 1 DAY entry to one of our theme parks like Disneyland? Get my drift? For a measly $80 you are able to enter ANY of our CROWN JEWELS for a FULL YEAR!! So quit the incessant WHINING and thank our men and women in uniform who are protecting your FREEEDOM to HAVE these beautiful parks, those who are serving in hell-hole places everyday while you hike the trails. THINK about it...you should be ashamed to complain about giving so little for so darned much!! Count your blessings as an American...NO ONE else in the world has our freedoms and such beautiful parks!!!
Terry, Perhaps you should spend a little more time rereading this specific post and looking at others regarding the ATB pass. For if you did, you'd come to understand that my concern isn't focused fully on the $80 price tag, but rather on the slow, but constant, effort by this administration to force the public lands agencies, ie the NPS, USFS, BLM et al, to turn to user fees for more and more of their funding. If you did that reading, perhaps, just perhaps, you'd come to appreciate that higher and higher fees not only can't solve the fiscal problems these agencies face, but will discourage visitation. That in turn will generate not only fewer revenues but also fewer advocates for the parks. In the long run, the "beautiful parks," as you put it, will not remain so beautiful. And please, park your military related comments elsewhere. The short-sighted blunder the Bush administration made in the Middle East not only has needlessly cost thousands of American lives, but untold lives of innocent Iraqis, not to mention untold billions of U.S. dollars that could have been much better spent here at home. If anything, the incursion has made us weaker overall militarily and threatened our freedoms more than they were ever threatened before this conflict. And let me make one thing perfectly clear: I fully support our troops at home and abroad. But I do grow weary of those who would attack folks who criticize the administration's decisions with some misconceived idea that those criticisms are directed upon the military.
Talk about hitting a nail on the head! Well put Kurt...well put!
Wrong...a higher price for an annual pass means that those who buy it will visit the parks MORE often, as they will want to get their money's worth. Don't underestimate the American people...they are not a cheapskate as you and others in this forum...they feel that $80 is darn good investment for the upkeep of our parks. Liberals like yourself who love socialism don't understand that if you give someone something for what seems as free, they won't take care of it (look at any reservation...the taxpayer builds them houses, and watch how quick they turn to crap). If the public has to PAY for their parks out-of-pocket, they will take better care of them because they will look at it as an INVESTMENT. And they will SUPPORT the parks more for the same reason...a sense of ownership. Actually, many good Americans feel that a $100+ annual pass would still be a bargain. All I see in this forum is incessant whining...nothing positive...how about writing about the wonders that your website title brings people in for? As I said, I had hoped to read some good info on various parks.... And please...don't YOU insult our intelligence by inferring that you know something about foreign affairs and military intel. Saddam was a very grave threat to his own people (remember his gassing of 100,000 Kurds in 1988?). We couldn't enforce the no-fly zones to protect the Kurds and Shia forever...his empire was rife with terrorist training camps; he funded terror throughout the globe. His people lived in squalor...women had no rights whatsoever...schools were used to store weapons...his failed-to-medal Olympic team was tortured and thrown into a plastic shredder by his sons...I could go on.... You seem to be just like so many other leftists...blame America first by making such a rediculous accusation that WE killed innocents...to the contrary, we have freed 25 million people to determine their own form of government...it is up to them to grasp the freedom we have given them and turn away from violence...and they are trying...to rid their nation of insurgents from Syria and Iran who continue to sow the seeds of that violence. And they are rather discouraged by a worldwide press who feel it is more important for President Bush to fail than securing the freedom of the Iraqi people...and I guess since you are bad-mouthing our efforts, you can count yourself in as well. President Bush just had the balls to DO something about Saddam's torture chambers, unlike Mr. Clinton. And BTW, what about the aspirin factory that Clinton bombed to deflect attention away from Monicagate? How many civilians were killed in that little "incursion?" If your buddy ALgore had been president on 9/11, he woulda just lobbed a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan and called it good...President Bush decided to remove the Taliban and destroy most of the Al Qaida leadership...and freed another 25 million. How many times have we been attacked again since President Bush took decisive action? Nada. ...and don't make me laugh...LOL...by saying we have a weak military...*snicker* not only do you know NOTHING about that subject matter, you wouldn't want to see what would happen if the President directed the release of the full fury of our armed forces.... You ARE attacking the military if you criticize their mission...that is their bread & butter...their job. Wise up.
Hey Terry, knock off the G.I. Joe crap and stick to the issues, instead of finding ways to browbeat those who disagree with your Bush type war policies and rhetoric...71% of the American people disagree with you! Isn't that what the American people were telling you in the last election. You don't seem to get it!
Terry, I repeat, READ what I've written. I haven't come out and said entrance fees should be done away with. And I've also said that even an $80 fee is a BARGAIN. Are you so blinded by your right-wing anger that you can't comprehend the written word? As for your belief that more Americans will buy passes if they're priced even higher, well, that's just ridiculous. Sure, there will continue to be a core of park lovers who, thanks to their wealth, will continue to buy the passes and visit the parks. But the parks can't survive with just a select handful of visitors. They need a wide range from all walks of life and demographics, not just for the additional revenues, but for wide-ranging appreciation and support so Congress will see how much support the parks have and understand the need for more revenues and willingly appropriate it. As I previously noted, the very group the Interior Department selected to help establish a price for the new pass determined that anything above $70 would be too much. As for your claim that "many Americans" would support a $100 pass, show me your data. This is your chance to back up your boasting with facts that will make a convincing argument. Let's see, you also claim that there's nothing on this blog that addresses the "wonders" of the parks. Skip over to my "Visiting the Parks" section and you just might see a few of those stories. Also, please understand that this blog is not intended to be a travelogue but rather one that aims to generate discussion about the management of the national parks. Along that line, I appreciate your contributions, but if you could be just a little bit more constructive it'd be greatly appreciated. As to your short-sighted right-wing views, I suppose you consider Robert Gates and Colin Powell, Sen. McCain and the entire Iraq study group "leftists" for agreeing the Bush plan isn't working. And what about Powell's latest comment that the Army "is about broken" due to it being over-extended in Iraq? Mission Accomplished? Not by a far shot. As for Afghanistan, take a closer look at that nation. The Taliban is re-emerging almost as strong as ever, there are more poppy fields than ever, and where is Bin Laden? Here's a flash, Terry: "Blind faith in your leaders will get you killed."
Note Terry! Kurt has done his homework!!
In all the stories and comments on this blog about the National Parks, the big picture seems never to be mentioned. That is: the United States has the best national park system in the world. Europe has virtually no parks. They run railroads to their mountain tops and put beer gardens up there. When they want a wild experience they come here! Poaching is a way of life in Asia and Africa. Tigers, elephants, rhinos and others are on the brink of extincition there. We're the only country that didn't ruin it's geysers and hot pools (Yellowstone) with commercial bathing resorts or power plants. No, our national park system isn't perfect, nothing is. But relative to how the rest of the world is doing in protecting parkland, the U. S. is doing great.
Your blog continues to provide useful information, great photos and commentary, and a near endless amount of entertainment value.... Keep up the good work. Kurt, I understand your concern with raising the Parks Pass; but my wife and I felt the $50.00 annual fee was too low, too much value for so much benifit. I have no objection to the 60% increase and will gladly fork over the money next May when our pass expires.