Entrance Fees Going Up

Mount Rainier National ParkIf you plan to visit Mount Rainier National Park this summer, it will cost you a little more money. The one week fee is jumping from $10 to $15 starting on January 1st. An annual pass is $30 to Rainier. This is the first fee increase in 9 years. It used to be that the money collected at all National Parks went right back into the "General Fund", the same place that your federal tax dollars go. But, in 1996, Congress authorized the "Fee Demonstration Program" which allowed 80% of the money collected at the entrance station to stay in that parks, with the other 20% going to parks which didn't collect an entrance fee. As a visitor, it feels good to know that the money I pay stays in the park, and doesn't get sent off to build a missile for the military.

I used to really be opposed to paying to visit my parks. I felt that it was a form of "double taxation". As a citizen, a portion of my federal tax dollars are already going to the National Park Service. I should just be able to show proof of US citizenship, like my drivers license or passport, and that would be my ticket into the park. But, as I've grown older, I've learned that "use fees" are just a way of life as an American at all levels of government, federal to local. I have even read that recreation on federal lands is among the most subsidized activities in the system, even more subsidized than logging or grazing. So, it turns out, that the taxes you pay every year in addition to the entrance fees you pay at the park still do not cover the cost to the government for you to drive around on the roads, use the restroom, walk on the trails, throw trash in the bin, breath the fresh air and enjoy the natural wonders of our park system.

By the way, the best deal out there is the $50 National Parks Pass. You get a card that is valid at any park for an entire year (from first use). It's good for you and a car full of your family and friends. It's perfect if you plan on doing a road trip between nearby parks.

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