A coalition led by the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Park Hospitality Association is asking National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to increase entrance fees in parks that now charge them, and to expand such fees into parks that don't have them.
Doing so, they argue, would provide the Park Service with greater revenues as the agency moves into its second century beginning in 2016.
In a letter sent to the director earlier this month, the groups urge Director Jarvis to implement proposals outlined earlier this year at a conference they organized in Washington.
Also supporting the call for higher fees are the American Hiking Society, the American Recreation Coalition, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the National Tour Association, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, the Southeast Tourism Society, and the Western States Tourism Policy Council.
The proposal goes beyond simply raising or instituting entrance fees. It also asks the Park Service to consider allowing:
* Tour operators to increase their fees;
* Fees to be boosted during the high seasons;
* Daily entrance fees, as opposed to the current weekly approach, and;
* An "international visitor" package that would include a short-term entrance pass as well as "maps, services available on mobile devices and other park information and would have special souvenir value."
Under the heading of GREAT PARK EXPERIENCES & SUSTAINABLE FUNDING, the groups made the following suggestions to the director:
The National Park Service has a unique opportunity to make some important changes in its park visitor fee structure that would result in significantly increased revenue for the national park system in its next 100 years while enhancing the park visitor experience. Currently, NPS collects entrance fees, recreation use fees, transportation fees and other special fees under a variety of legal authorities, including the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004. The changes below could be done under existing authorities.
NPS should adopt a Centennial park fee program with two goals: (1) increased revenue for park operations that will enhance the National Park Service’s capacity to serve the visitor; and (2) a program that allows visitors to continue to enjoy the parks at a reasonable cost.
Some important ideas to consider include:
* A “dynamic” fee structure that (1) provides for higher fees during heavy visitation periods and reduced entrance, campground, backcountry and other user fees when parks are less visited; and (2) creates seasonal and shorter-duration passes for targeted groups, such as an international visitor pass that could include maps, services available on mobile devices and other park information and would have special souvenir value.
* Implementing individual park entrance fees at the level the National Park Service has already established for different park classifications, and modifying those fees at appropriate intervals
* Considering expanding the number of reduced fee days and free days to encourage park use by people qualifying for federal assistance programs
* Assessing alternatives to the current “carload” pricing, including charging per person fees for each adult after the first two adults in a vehicle, and consideration of charging per day fees.
* Reducing the volunteer hours required to receive a single park entrance pass, and accelerate earning of passes through volunteer efforts at parks unable to collect fees
* Reviewing park units not now collecting fees to determine whether there should be additional units with entrance and related fees for all or portions of the year, using technology to reduce collection costs and add convenience for visitors
* Increasing vital services to visitors served by tour operators to be offset by appropriate fees with adequate planning notice before implementation