A hearing Thursday before the full Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will delve into the fiscal needs of the National Park Service for the next fiscal year. Specifically, the senators want to hear about "supplemental" funding mechanisms that could help the Park Service afford the National Park System.
A range of supplemental funding sources was identified earlier this year by the National Parks Hospitality Association and the National Parks Conservation Association. Some of those proposals, if enacted, would mean higher fees to visit and enjoy the parks.
As Traveler reported back in March, some of the ideas propose tapping existing federal revenue streams, while others would have park visitors pay more for a variety of park experiences. Others call for creating a $1 billion endowment for the Park Service, going after a portion of the state sales taxes collected on visitor purchases, and asking gateway communities to boost their sales tax rates a bit to generate revenue for their parks.
There also could be some suggestions that the Park Service upgrade some of its services, particularly in the realm of recreational vehicle visitors. According to a story in Woodall's Campground Management, there's a concern that a lack of RV amenities in national park campgrounds is hurting park attendance. According to the story, RV stays in the parks have dropped from more than 4 million user-nights per year in the 1980s to about half that currently.
Derrick Crandall of the National Parks Hospitality Association told the publication that "(P)rivate campgrounds have adapted to today’s campers. There is strong evidence that NPS sites designed for tent campers, with no utility hook-ups, no Wi-Fi or dumpstations and other factors have contributed to the decline in RV stays."
Witnesses scheduled to testify at Thursday morning's hearing include Park Service Director Jon Jarvis; Craig Obey, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association; David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia; Gerard Gabrys, president and CEO of Guest Services Inc., a major park concessionaire, and; Dan Puskar, executive director of the Association of Partners for Public Lands.
You can offer your thoughts to the committee, but have to act quickly as written comments are being accepted only through 5 p.m. EDT on Friday. Your statement should be submitted, preferably in Word format, as an email attachment to the committee's staff assistant, John Assini, at John_Assini@energy.senate.gov
You should state in your cover email that you want your attached statement included in the record of the July 25 parks funding bill hearing. Include your full name and address in your statement.