Reader Participation Day: Should Costs Of Operating Special Programs In the Parks Be Shared By All?

Should the National Park Service do away with special use fees and simply spread the costs of running special programs across all those who enter the parks?

For instance, in the ongoing discussion of climbing fees at Denali National Park and Preserve, officials at the Access Fund have suggested that a small increase in park entrance fees could easily off-set the cost of Denali's Mountaineering Program.

Is that reasonable? Should the costs of a special user group be born by all? Should there be an increase in entrance fees at Grand Canyon National Park to off-set the trail repairs necessitated by mule trains and so allow for more mule rides into the canyon's Inner Gorge. Or higher entrance fees to cover the costs of the park's river program?

And what about backcountry fees? There are reservation fees in some parks, and boating permits to be had in others. Should all these be wiped out in exchange, say, of a $5 boost in entrance fees per car?

Or, should the folks who participate in this activities simply bear all the costs?

Comments

In my view the goal is to get as many people to parks as possible, raising the gate fees (or instituting one if it is currently free) is not going to get people to come and may drive some away. Special fees should be bore to those that use them. People who want to ride the mule train should pay extra and those fees fix the problems the mules have wrought.

I am a permit backpacker. I gladly pay my permit fee. If the fees needed to be higher to support the stuff I am using, I would pay it. But I would not want to pay more to fix climbing walls. Their permit fees should be higher to support fixing the things they use. Obviously there are something things which are bigger and require fees from all (rangers, road access, etc) and those are the standard park fees.

I believe that the cost should be bore by the one using the facility. I wouldn't ask someone else to help me pay for, say, a mule ride in the grand canyon. If you're going to play you should be willing to pay.

I don't mind paying extra for things such as the cave tours at Carlsbad, but I do think that money should go back into the Park, and I'm told that is not always the case.

Why not raise fees for both? Congress's need to preserve money for bankers & bailouts leaves the NPS chronically underfunded, so why not charge fees commensurate with the quality of America's greatest? When places like Cedar Point, Disneyland, King's Island, Six Flags, and others are filling their parks while charging fees aywhere from $35 - $70 per person for single-day admissions, I hardly think that similar prices for the National Parks 7-day carload passes will cause any significant drop in attendance. Take a look at the following: Yosemite - $20/car; Canyonlands - $10/car; Yellowstone - $25/car; Grand Canyon - $25/car. All of these are 7-day passes. Of course don't forget the $10 senior lifetime pass or the $80 annual carload pass. Of course, higher fees could be avoided if Washington would adopt a sensible parks funding policy but last I heard, the NPS is prohibited from making campaign contributions so that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

If it's for access by disabled or elderly, then yes, raise other fees.

If it's for access by special use groups such as climbers, rafters, or others who are physically and mentally able to take on testosterone fueled adventures, then no.

Should the NPS spread the costs of running special programs to everyone who enter the parks? I do not think that it is possible that I could answer this with a more emphatic no.
You pay your entrance fee, which I only half-heartedly agree with--wasn't there a time when entrance fees were not collected since we all already pay Federal taxes?--, but pay without voicing complaint, and you have any number of free activities that you can participate in. If you want to take part in a special activity or excursion, there is usually an extra fee that you have to pay...or you do not get to do it. I, for example am not going get in line for a cave tour or a mule ride and then ask the person standing next to me to pay a part of my usage fee as well as theirs, just because I do not feel like paying. Just like life in general, people need to pay there own way.

The basic services should be covered by taxes. I'm not happy with fees at all. Neither entrance fees, nor "special fees" for backcounty permits or some guided tours (e.g. Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park).

I see a question only if there are very special activities in a park that create huge costs but are relevant only for a miniscule part of the visitors. Climbing Mount McKinley is one of those very few activities. But the total bill for rescue services is much higher in Yosemite than in Denali. So given the total budget of the park, the Alaska region and the NPS, the SAR in Denali won't make a dent if the climbers fee would be abandoned.

Is that realistic? Given the well known state of the federal bugdet? Everyone should decide that question for his or her own. But nothing will change, if we don't believe in the possibility.