Popular national parks to raise fees to $35, not $70

Zion National Park's entrance monument, Washington County, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Interior Department is increasing fees at the most popular national parks to $35 per vehicle, backing down from an earlier plan that would have forced visitors to pay $70 per vehicle to visit the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite and other iconic parks.

In this February 2005 file photo, with the North Rim in the background, tourists hike along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2005 | AP photo by Rick Hossman, St. George News

A change announced Thursday will boost fees at 17 popular parks by $5, up from the current $30 but far below the figure Interior proposed last fall.

The plan by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke drew widespread opposition from lawmakers and governors of both parties, who said the higher fees could exclude many Americans from enjoying national parks. The agency received more than 109,000 comments on the plan, most of them opposed.

Most of the rate hikes take effect June 1, the National Park Service said. The $35 fee applies mostly in the West and will affect such popular parks as Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton parks, among others.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the fee hikes were needed to help maintain the parks and begin to address an $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.

“Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality,” Zinke said.

In this April 2018 file photo, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at a forum in Plainsboro, N.J., April 6, 2018 | AP Photo by Wayne Parry, St. George News

Zinke thanked those who made their voices heard through the public comment process.

“Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases,” he said.

The maintenance backlog “isn’t going to be solved overnight and will require a multi-tiered approach as we work to provide badly needed revenue to repair infrastructure,” Zinke added.

Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Park Conservation Association, hailed the new fee structure.

“The public spoke, and the administration listened,” she said, noting that the plan to nearly triple fees at popular parks was opposed by a range of businesses, gateway communities, governors, tourism groups, conservation organizations and the public.

The revised fee plan is “a big win for park lovers everywhere,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

In this January 2015 file photo, spectators gaze at El Capitan for a glimpse of climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, as seen from the valley floor in Yosemite National Park, Calif., Jan. 14, 2015 | AP photo by Ben Margot, St. George News

“This is a prime example that activism works,” Grijalva added. “The American people raised their concerns, participated in the public comment period and made sure that the Trump White House knew the proposal was unpopular.”

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she was glad Zinke “abandoned his reckless plan to almost triple park fees on American families,” but said the new plan lacks transparency or a full analysis of the impact fee hikes will have on park visitation and local economies.

She opposes “any action that creates barriers to accessing public lands,” Cantwell said.

The fee schedule announced Thursday sets a $5 increase for all parks that charge entrance fees. Parks that previously charged $15 will now charge $20; a $20 fee will rise to $25; and a $25 fee will now be $30.

The current $30 fee is the highest charged by the park service and applies to the 17 most-visited parks. More than two-thirds of national parks will remain free to enter.

Written by MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • utahdiablo April 12, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    $5 buck increase is the same thing as doing nothing to help the Parks….oh well, enjoy the extra Millions of Park Visitors you already have no way of controlling

  • Pa Triot April 13, 2018 at 8:21 am

    I was going to say this is a “Mickey Mouse” solution for our National Park problem…….but Mickey Mouse would have done better, if consulted. Disneyland now charges $135 for an adult park pass on what they consider ‘peak days’ and families are still lined up with their credit cards buying tickets. Of course the people were opposed to a larger National Park increase. We’re opposed to gas, healthcare and tax increases as well. But our National Park system (particularly Zion) is bursting at the seams with increased visitation and in need of funds for trail, road and park maintenance. $5 is a band aid fix for a gaping wound.

    • comments April 13, 2018 at 10:20 pm

      Zion could charge as much as disneyland and it wouldn’t phase the tourists. Visitation numbers would still exceed practical capacity.

  • Mike P April 13, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Pa, Yeah, you can bring your average family of four to Disneyland and “get in” for only $540 !. (considerably more for the typical Morman family) Sometimes though, if it’s not too busy, you can get on 2, maybe 3 rides during your 12 hour stay. What a deal !! But I still don’t see a comparison between Disneyland and a State/Federal Park except the crowds. We took some out-of-state relatives to Zion Christmas 2016 and could barely move due to traffic. Last time we went to Yosemite we could barely breath due to all the tour bus and shuttle bus fumes. (LOL)

  • DB April 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Beware. Some, if not many of these so-called ‘free’ national parks aren’t really free. Take Mount Rushmore for example. The park is free but parking costs $10, run by a third party . It’s out in the middle of nowhere and you have no choice.

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