CEDAR CITY – National park officials gave Southern Utahns an opportunity to comment in person about proposed fee increases at an open house Thursday at the Iron County Visitor Center. While park officials are welcoming and encouraging comments from the public, only a handful of people showed up at the open house.
The National Park Service is seeking public comment on the proposed fee hikes at Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks as well as Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Cedar City resident Matt Bartley, a biologist with the Utah Department of Natural Resources, was on hand to get more information and leave a comment.
“It’s kind of a double-edged thing,” he said. “It would suck to pay more, but it would be good to get the improvements out at the park. I’m not in a spot where a few dollars of the increase is really going to prevent me from going, or discourage me or anything,” Bartley said, although he would like to be able to have more input into where the money is spent within the parks, he said.
Bartley usually gets an All Parks Pass which costs $80 and allows entrance into all national parks and national wildlife refuges. The cost of that pass is not increasing, he said.
Representatives from all three national parks said that the number of park visitors have increased, along with the costs of operating the parks. None of the parks have had fee increases since 2006-2007.
Zion National Park Chief Park Ranger Cindy Purcell said that so far, comments on Zion’s proposed fee increase are split between positive and negative, and she looks forward to more comments. Zion’s proposed fee changes would increase from $25 to $30 per vehicle.
“This is just a proposal, so that’s why we’re asking for all these comments. The more we can get, the more we can measure how people feel about it,” Purcell said.
Zion National Park Ranger Ray O’Neil agrees.
“A lot of people have an opinion about how we manage the park, and how we manage our fees … this is the opportunity to give us input. Complaining to friends, putting information on a blog site, doesn’t do that much. We want your opinion,” O’Neil said.
At Bryce Canyon National Park, only 40 percent of the park’s operating budget comes from the federal government, and 60 percent comes from other sources including visitor fees, said the park’s interim Superintendent Wade Vagias.
“We are seeing comments from across the board,” Vagias said. “We see many people that are very much in favor of it (fee increases) and we see some others that are opposed to it.”
Bryce Canyon’s proposed fee increase is $5, which would raise entrance fees from $20 to $25. The $5 fee increase proposed for Bryce Canyon would go entirely toward funding the contract for the shuttle bus system. The shuttle now costs $1.1 million to $1.2 million per year, but the contract is expired, and the cost next year is estimated to be $1.4 million to $1.6 million.
“These monies are invested directly back into the park,” Vagias said.
Cedar Breaks National Monument Superintendent Paul Roelandt said the proposed fee increase is from $4 per person to $7 per person. Campground fees would increase from $14 to $22 per night.
About 700,000 people visit Cedar Breaks each year, primarily in the summer. Park facilities are at an elevation of 10,000 feet, although the park is open in the winter for snowmobiling and other winter activities.
Fees at Cedar Breaks have not been raised since about 2006, Roelandt said, and “it just hasn’t kept up with our costs.”
Cedar Breaks keeps 100 percent of fees, Roelandt said, but the money is deposited in an account. National park officials give the money back for approved projects submitted by park officials that have a “direct visitor connection.”
- 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:
- National parks accept comments on proposed fee increases; Open House for public input
- Pipe Spring National Monument proposes entrance fee increase
- Grand Canyon National Park proposes entrance fee increase
- BLM hosts conference on fee increases, Greater Sage-Grouse; public comment period
- Zion National Park invites comments on proposed increase in fees
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