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NPCA, NPHA Want National Park Service To Raise Entrance Fees To Parks

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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, theŽ American Recreation Coalition, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, theŽ National Tour Association, theŽ Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association, theŽ Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, theŽ 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

Comments

Agreed, Lee.


WOW. Your headline just does not accurately reflect our proposal. Glad you at least included the full submission so that your readers can see that for themselves. Where is a reference to pricing designed to move visitation away from peak periods? Where is a reference to reducing fee collection costs -- now 20+% of revenues? Where is a reference to making fees fairer -- so that a family coming for an afternoon doesn't pay the same as a couple coming and staying for a week? Where is a reference to use of new technology to collect fees conveniently and efficiently at some parks which now have no fees because of too many entry sites?

But -- thanks for at least raising the opportunity to discuss the role of fees when park operating budgets are in deep trouble ... and getting worse.


The issue of finding more ways to raise fees for parks and other public lands is open to debate. For example, pricing entrance fees to match peak visitor days, ie if its a nice summer weekend, double the fee (like to many hotels do), well that's just great. Could go on and on, but I suggest that these parks belong to all of us, they should be funded as such, not nickeled to death like the proposals from NPCA. I support reasonable entrance and camping fees, all the rest of this is a very slippery slope that will lead to everything from additional parking fees. hiking fees,( already happening), etc. In fact some parks, Yosemite for one, have a whole division of employees designated to do just that, its called the Division of Business Management and Revenue Enhancement.


Of course they do. It's not as if they actually want people to visit or enjoy our national parks unless they have money. Keep poor people out because they're, well, poor, and might trash these places. Yup.

And I do agree with one of the comments that maybe the $10 lifetime pass for seniors should be reconsidered to at least a yearly pass. I've gone with my folks, and actually paid for their passes. Seemed like a tremendous deal, but I always felt like we were getting away with something when tagging along with them.


ypw, as a senior now going on 74, I have been used my 10.00 pass so many times I sometimes feel guilty about it. I agree with you, I would support a yearly pass for seniors, provided it is a reasonable fee. Being on a fixed income , and I am not complaining, I have a great pension and have been blessed with good health, but we must be careful about fees. Here in California we are looking at 50.00 campsites, that begins to hurt, and I am pretty well set for a lower middle income person.


As we pointed out in March, there are many avenues that should be explored to improve the Park Service's fiscal health, and tinkering with the senior pass is just one of them (one we support, too!).

It would seem that calling for higher fees -- whether they be higher entrance fees, per-person fees, fees in parks that don't charge entrance fees -- is a quick, easy solution in that it can be done without congressional approval. Going down the road towards better federal funding for the National Park System, in part by rooting out wasteful or unnecessary spending across the federal government, is much tougher when you need Congress to act.

Rather than simply asking for the Park Service director to raise fees, it would seem wholly appropriate to ask/pressure Congress to be more fiscally responsible.


rmackie:

ypw, as a senior now going on 74, I have been used my 10.00 pass so many times I sometimes feel guilty about it. I agree with you, I would support a yearly pass for seniors, provided it is a reasonable fee. Being on a fixed income , and I am not complaining, I have a great pension and have been blessed with good health, but we must be careful about fees. Here in California we are looking at 50.00 campsites, that begins to hurt, and I am pretty well set for a lower middle income person.

I was thinking maybe a $10 annual pass.

There's still a 50% federal recreation amenities discount with the pass, and I don't see why it couldn't continue. I remember going on a cave tour with my mom, and she got half off. She won't go camping with us, so we can't get her to come along to save some bucks.


We pay $80 a year for our annual parks pass. My husband laughs every time he gets to use it - he thinks its the greatest thing since sliced bread. It expired today so we have to go to Shenandoah NP to get it renewed next weekend. I'm not going to complain...


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