Fee Creep Reaches Olympic National Park

Add Olympic National Park, one of my favorites, to those park units proposing a bump in their entrance and "user" fees.
Under the plan, Olympic's $20 entrance fee, good for seven days, will slide up to $25 beginning in January 2009. If you're riding a motorcycle, it'll cost you $20 (up from $15), while pedestrians or bikers will be charged $12, up from the current $5 charge.
Also, the park's annual pass will jump from $30 to $50. (Remember when $50 would get you an annual pass to the entire national park system? It wasn't so long ago. In fact, it was just last year.)
If the fee schedule is approved, it also will cost you an extra $2 per night to camp in a park campground, with new rates ranging from $12 to $20 per night, depending on the campground. And it will be more expensive to hoist your pack on your back and head into the backcountry. The plan calls for a $10 fee for a Wilderness Use Permit for one person, $20 for 2-3, $40 for 4-6, $60 for 7-9, and $80 for 10-12.
The permits currently cost a flat $5, plus $2 per person.

Now, don't think the park is proposing these fee bumps simply to cover the cost of managing permit systems. No, these user fees are viewed as money makers for the park to pay for projects its budget doesn't cover.
For instance, last year the park used entrance fee funds to replace 50 picnic tables and 130 fire grates in the Hoh and Mora campgrounds; remove an unspecified number of dilapidated buildings; repair coastal trails, and; renovate bulletin board displays around the park.
This year the park plans to use such funds to restore grounds at the historic Kestner homestead, replace underground electrical lines at Hurricane Ridge, rebuild the Deer Lake Trail, replace exhibits at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, and improve accessibility of park walkways.
Public comment on these proposed increases will be taken through September 30, 2007, at this site.
Not everyone thinks this proposal is a good one. Tim McNulty of Olympic Park Associates noted to the Kitsap Sun that Olympic's entrance fee just went from $10 to $15 this year.
"I always think it is the responsibility of Congress to fund parks and forests, just as they do for other agencies of the federal government," McNulty told the newspaper. "For people like myself who spend a lot of time in the park, this is a considerable change."

Comments

Historically, roughing it in the backcountry has been the preferred--and usually free--alternative for many younger visitors visiting parks. I've always considered this a good incentive--it helps scouts and others develop a strong lifelong appreciation for nature and our parks. Under Olympic's proposal, 2 people on a weekend trip to the park would generally pay more in the backcountry ($20 for a 2-person wilderness permit) than what you'd pay at a campground ($12 to $20). Looks like the NPS wants to make the backcountry into the place where the rich folks go. Hopefully, Congress will stop this trend towards creating first class and second class park experiences.