National park fees: Public comment period extended after more than 65,000 comments received

Composite image; background photo of south entrance monument at Zion National Park, Washington County, Utah, May 5, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — The National Park Service has extended the public comment periods for proposed peak-season entrance fees at 17 national parks and revised fees for road-based commercial tours and will accept comments until Dec. 22, 2017. If implemented, the increased fees would generate revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks.

Read more: Should entrance fees more than double at Zion, 16 other national parks? Comment period open

The deadlines, originally scheduled for Nov. 23, have been extended to accommodate interest in this issue from members of Congress and the public. Already, more than 65,000 comments have been received on the proposals.

Under the proposal, peak-season entrance fees would be established at 17 highly visited national parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, as well as other national parks in the region, including the Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain national parks.

The peak season for each park would include its busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation. The peak season entrance fee for a seven-day pass to each park would be $70 per private, noncommercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.

The cost of the annual America the Beautiful — The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which provides entrance to all federal lands, including all national parks for a one-year period, would remain $80. Entrance fees are not charged to visitors under 16 years of age or holders of Senior, Military, Access, Volunteer or Every Kid in a Park passes. The majority of national parks will remain free to enter.

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The proposed new fee structure would be implemented at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion National Parks with peak season starting on May 1, 2018; Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Shenandoah National Parks with peak season starting on June 1, 2018; and Joshua Tree National Park as soon as practicable in 2018.

Fees have long been an important source of revenue used to improve the visitor experience and recreation opportunities in national parks and on other federal lands. Estimates suggest that the peak season price structure could increase national park revenue by $70 million per year. The funds would be used to improve roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms and other amenities which enhance the visitor experience.

Read more: This is what Zion National Park might do to solve overcrowding issues; how to comment

Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, 80 percent of entrance fees remain in the park where they are collected. The other 20 percent of the revenue is distributed to other national parks.

Access to the vast majority of National Park Service sites remains free; only 118 of 417 National Park Service units charge an entrance fee.

The public can comment period on the peak-season entrance fee proposal until Dec. 22, 2017, on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website.  Written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

The public comment period for proposed entry and permit fee adjustments for commercial tour operators has also been extended until Dec. 22. The proposal would increase entry fees for commercial operators and standardize commercial use authorization requirements for road-based commercial tours, including application and management fees

All CUA fees stay within the collecting park and would fund rehabilitation projects for buildings, facilities, parking lots, roads and wayside exhibits that would enhance the visitor experience. The fees will also cover the administrative costs of receiving, reviewing and processing CUA applications and required reports.

The proposal also includes a peak-season commercial entry fee structure for the 17 national parks referenced above. All proposed fee adjustments for commercial operators would go into effect following an implementation window.

Information and a forum for public comments regarding commercial permit requirements and fees is available until Dec. 22, 2017 on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website.  Written comments can be sent to National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

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  • Not_So_Much November 22, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    I would like to see those willing to show proof of US citizenship have one fee and all others a much higher one. No group or tour bus rates or other such discounts. Take the cost to maintain the parks and then do the math. Something does need to change.

  • mmsandie November 23, 2017 at 10:38 am

    I,m glad they have extended the period to express oneself, the park belongs to every9ne, but I agree with th3 person above.. when i. went to Europe.. you have to pay $150 dollars for a sticker just to drive thru Switzerland.. but then again they are not in EU hav3 their own currency…and that where peo0le use to hide there m8ney from USA..
    We have to maintain the parks, but with mor3 peo0le going thru , that’s more revenue, but more use of park to maintain..but then there are 5he people who just driv3 thru Zion to get to Rte 89.. I went to a restaurant on 89. And when I cane thru Zion to come home , in the dark, it was full of trucks going thru and cars…maybe they should close the park after dark?

  • utahdiablo November 23, 2017 at 11:25 am

    The highway 13 that goes through the Zion Tunnel cannot be colsed after dark, it’s a state highway….same as the highway that runs through Capitol Reef….so go ahead and raise the park fee’s to $70, they will still come….Zion is lost

  • DB November 24, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    If you want to visit Zion, you’re going to visit Zion, period. Same for Grand Canyon, only more so. This won’t deter patronage and I’m not sure that’s the point. Most visitors are going to show up at the front gate unaware of the price increase, yell at the attendant and go in anyway.

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