National parks accept comments on proposed fee increases; Open House for public input

ST. GEORGE — National Park Service units that collect entrance fees and recreation fees from park visitors are beginning public engagement to seek comments on possible changes in park fees and an Open House will be held in Cedar City Thursday particular to Zion, Bryce Canyon national parks and Cedar Breaks National Monument.

National park units are strong economic engines for Utah. In 2013, almost 9 million visitors to the national parks in Utah contributed $596.5 million to the state’s economy, according to press releases, and supported 9,069 jobs related to tourism.

Periodically the National Park Service reviews its fee rates and fee proposals locally are part of a broader assessment underway across the nation. Parks may change recreation fees to align with the the National Park Service’s new standard entrance fee schedule, which was last updated in 2006. The new fees could be implemented as early as May 2015. However, the fee increases and implementation schedule may change based on the results of public comments received at an open house Thursday, particulars below, and those being collected through different avenues such as websites and email.

Each park will carefully consider comments received from all sources, and will develop an appropriate fee and implementation schedule.

National Park entrance fees are not charged for persons under 16 years of age. Costs for passes covered under the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program will not be changed at this time. These passes include: Interagency Annual, Interagency Senior, Interagency Military, Interagency Access, and Volunteer. Additional information on each pass can be found at the National Parks website. These passes can be purchased at any National Park site.

Zion National Park

Zion is proposing an increase to its camping, entrance, and wilderness permit fees. The last time entrance fees were increased at Zion was in 2007. The current camping fees date back to 2004 and wilderness permit fees to 2005.

Under the authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, Zion retains 80 percent of the recreation fees it collects. Fee revenue from Zion National Park entrance stations and campgrounds has provided funding for over 24 major projects since 2010, according to a press release. Projects in Zion include rehabilitation of South Campground roads and restrooms (2010-2014), construction of a new visitor restroom at the Temple of Sinawava, preservation of the Historic Cable Mountain Draw Works and operation of the visitor shuttle bus system, among numerous other projects. All of the projects focused on improvements to visitor services, facilities, and visitor safety.

“The fee revenue is critical to the park,” Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said. “Funds from entrance, camping and other fees are used to improve and maintain our facilities and provide valuable visitor services.”

More than 70 percent of the entrance fees are used to operate the shuttle bus system in the park and the town of Springdale. The bus system improves park operations and visitor experience by decreasing vehicle congestion in Zion Canyon, improving air quality, and providing visitors safe and easy access to popular park features. The shuttle buses are 15 years old and maintenance costs are increasing. An increase in entrance fees would help maintain shuttle facilities, as well as the aging buses and help to begin the replacement of the fleet.  Below is a comparison of current and proposed entrance fees.

Entrance Current Fee Proposed Fee
1-7 day private, noncommercial vehicle $25 per vehicle $30 per vehicle
1-7 day motorcycle $12 per person $25 per motorcycle
1-7 day individual per-person (hiker, bicyclist, etc.) $12 per person $15 per person
Zion annual pass $50 $60

Increased campground revenue will be used to maintain and rehabilitate the park’s three campgrounds. Projects could include rehabilitating and upgrading restrooms and other facilities to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.  In addition, revenue has not kept pace with rising electric power costs and campsites with electric service have been operating at a deficit. Below is a comparison of current and proposed fees for campgrounds.

Watchman and South Campgrounds (single sites) Current Fee Proposed Fee
Campsites without electric hookups $16 $20
Campsites with electric hookups $18-$20 $30

Group camp fees are also proposed to be changed from a per person fee ($3 per person) to a flat rate per group size. Below is the proposed fee structure per group size.

Number of People in Group Proposed Fee
7-15 $50
16-25 $90
26-40 $130

A fee increase for wilderness permits is proposed to ensure wilderness resources and experience are protected for those visiting today and in the future. Wilderness permit fees are used to answer public inquiries on wilderness activities and permit requirements by visitors in person, on line and by telephone; provide preventative search and rescue patrols; monitor wilderness resource condition; and maintain wilderness campsites and trails.

Number of People in Group Current Fee Proposed Fee
1-2 $10 $15
3-7 $15 $20
8-12 $20 $25

Open house for comment – Zion, Bryce Canyon national parks and Cedar Breaks National Monument

A public open house for the proposed fee increases for Zion National Park and its sister parks, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park, will be held on Thursday, Jan. 8, at the Iron County Visitor Center from 5-7 p.m. The office is located at 581 North Main Street in Cedar City.

Superintendents and staff from all three park areas will be in attendance at the open house to provide information and answer questions.

Over 80 percent of collected fee revenues are reinvested directly back into the park they are collected within. In Bryce Canyon, recently funded projects include new comfort stations, new museum exhibits, trail rehabilitation projects, and operation of the park’s popular visitor shuttle bus system.

Recent fee-funded projects accomplished at Cedar Breaks include the addition of hot showers and other improvements in the campground, and many trail and potable water system improvements. A new ADA accessible trail from the Visitor Center area to Sunset View Overlook is planned for 2015.

Future revenues from the proposed fee increases will be used to support and enhance other visitor services including maintenance of park facilities, additional upgrades to campgrounds, restoration of historic buildings and landscapes, and additional park interpretive and educational programs.

  • To comment on Zion National Park:
    • Time period: Dec. 9, 2014, through Jan. 23
    • Online commenting available at the National Park Service planning website.
    • Written comments: Fee Program Coordinator, Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah 84767
  • To comment on Bryce Canyon:
    • Time period: Dec. 9, 2014 through Jan. 12
    • Online commenting available at National Park Service planning website; search “Bryce Canyon Proposed Entrance and Campground Fee Modifications”
    • Written comments: Superintendent, Bryce Canyon National Park, Attn: Fee Proposal, PO Box 640201, Bryce, Utah 84764
  • To comment on Cedar Breaks:
    • Time period: Dec. 22, 2014 through Jan. 30
    • Online commenting available at the Cedar Breaks website and by email
    • Written comments: Attn: Proposed Fee Increase, Cedar Breaks National Monument, 2390 West Highway 56, Cedar City, UT 84720.

Open house details and resources

  • What: Open house to hear public comment
  • When: Thursday, Jan. 8 from 5-7 p.m.
  • Where: Iron County Visitor Center, 581 North Main Street, Cedar City, Utah 84721
  • Zion National Park website | www.parkplanning.nps.gov/zion
  • Information about the 2013 National Park Visitor Spending Effects

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11 Comments

  • Doug January 7, 2015 at 9:51 am

    They make it sound necessary but the bottom line is they are going to lose some visitors. Most people have a day or two to spend there at a time and $30 is getting up there. We ride motorcycles through the park every now and then. We ride through with only one person per bike, this proposal will more than double the cost for us. My wife and I spend $24 now and they want that to be $50. We won’t be riding through there anymore with this expense. I have to wonder if they actually get much more money in the long run by alienating their regulars? It seems like the increase would hurt the surrounding businesses by not having as many visitors.

  • voice of reason January 7, 2015 at 10:20 am

    stick with the National Parks annual pass at $80 and forget the entrance fee.

  • Evil Twins Mommy January 7, 2015 at 10:25 am

    I’m not going to pay that increase let them get it from somebody else considering that now the price of gas is going to turn around and start going back up again

  • Billy Madison January 7, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Raise the entrance fee to $500 per person. That will cut out all of the low/middle income people. The park won’t be crowded anymore so you can sell off the buses, fire most of the lazy Rangers, and probably make the same cash as now with half the headaches.

  • Koolaid January 7, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Those park superintendent salaries are high as well as others in administration positions. Didn’t you learn this from your school board positions?

  • mxdirtboy January 7, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    National park ranger salaries range from 38-107k a year.Looks like they will raise the fee to pay overpaid employees.The working class goes on to work every week,while the rich take the time to persuade the nps to raise the fee. Benefits the rich to have empty parks for their leasure.Environmentalists actually want all parks and forests closed to the public,they think we are too large a burden on the natural resources.When I was in college in the 80’s all the students getting their degree and moving into the workforce for the state forests and national parks were environmentalists,they are now in high positions to fufill their will.

    • Captain Obvious January 16, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Let’s see actually very few employees salaries are that high.

      Most of the workforce at Zion and across the board for the National Park Service are seasonal workers. In other words most of the employees are making less than $16,000 per year.

      Those who are fortunate enough to have a year round job are actually subjected to a furlough of 4 weeks to many months. And still are making less than the numbers you quote. There is maybe one person making over $100K per year there, which is the superintendent who is in charge of several hundred employees, making decisions that effect millions of visitors a year.

  • Brad Winder January 7, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    If they would quit having 12 or so “Free Entrance” days a year, they would acquire the additional funds needed without raising the entrance fee. Ridiculous to raise the entrance fee to those of us locals who for the most part just travel through the park to the property we own on the other side.

    • Captain Obvious January 16, 2015 at 11:28 am

      National Park Service is actually required by law to offer X number of fee free days per year.

  • Jim Ed Bob January 8, 2015 at 9:01 am

    LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD ON THIS !

    https://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=62908

    Raising rates to $30.00 for a 7 day pass. What about us locals who want to spend just a day up there. HERE is a link to post comments Share this Washington County. Lets push for a 10 or 15 dollar day pass of some kind of Local discount like they used to do. I hate paying 25 or 30 dollars for a 7 day pass that I only use for a few hours or 1 day. Here is a link to express your comments

    https://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=62908

  • Love the parks! January 8, 2015 at 11:01 am

    There is a dirty little secret that the park service is trying to cover up. They are going to have to come up with a whopping 100 MILLION dollars to get rid of one concessionaire at Grand Canyon South Rim. They lost a lawsuit to this concession several years ago, and they have done everything in their power to “get even” with the concessionaire for daring to question the park service authority.
    There are many news releases on this situation. Here is one: http://www.smithcurrie.com/resources-news-59.html
    And here is a direct quote from this one article: “Now the Park Service has announced another new approach intended to increase competition for Xanterra’s remaining concessions work – one that has wide-spread implication and is of dubious legality. That is, in a decision straight from Director Jarvis, if an offeror other than Xanterra is awarded the contract for this work, the new contractor will not have to pay Xanterra a $200 million LSI – rather, it would only have to pay a “more manageable” $57 million dollars.

    How? Why? The answer – the Park Service plans to borrow $100 million in franchise fee revenues that it has accumulated ($25 million from the Grand Canyon and $75 million from other national parks) to pay down Xanterra’s LSI. At the same time, as a means of repaying this loan, NPS will raise the minimum franchise fee at the South Rim from 3.8 percent to 14 percent. NPS sees this not only as a way to increase competition but to generate a higher return to the government as well.”
    Here is another from the NPS itself: http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2014/12/national-park-service-court-filing-claims-xanterra-trying-block-competition-grand-canyon-concessions26032
    And here is a direct quote from this article: “In its Complaint and Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, Xanterra stresses that it has operated at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for over a century, as though this history constituted an entitlement to continued operations,” the government’s response reads. “Xanterra has resisted the Park Service’s efforts to enhance competition for the South Rim concessions, complaining, for example, that the Park Service’s $100 million buy-down of its LSI was ‘not requested nor welcomed by Xanterra.’
    Due to space and time, I won’t quote any others. But take some time to look it up.
    There is one major reason for the fee increase. It is that the NPS is angry, in fact livid, that a concessionaire would dare to sue them, over one of the many capricious, vindictive and senseless decisions they have tried to force down the throats of all the concessions. This one is the only one who had the guts to stand up to them! The concession won that round. But the NPS will never forget it, or let it be.

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