As part of its ongoing efforts to address aging park infrastructure and improve the visitor experience, the National Park Service (NPS) announced today (April 12) changes to the entrance fees charged at national parks. The changes, which come in response to public comments on a fee proposal released in October 2017, will modestly increase entrance fees to raise additional revenue to address the $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance across the system of 417 parks, historic and cultural sites, and monuments.
According to a press release, most seven-day vehicle passes to enter national parks will be increased by $5 and will be implemented in many parks beginning June 1. Yosemite National Park for example will increase the price of a seven-day vehicle pass to the park from $30 to $35. More than two-thirds of national parks will remain free to enter. A complete list of park entrance fees may be found here.
All of the revenue from the fee increases will remain in the National Park Service with at least 80% of the money staying in the park where it is collected. The funds will be used for projects and activities to improve the experience for visitors who continue to visit parks at unprecedented levels. Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, means aging park facilities incurring further wear and tear.
“An investment in our parks is an investment in America,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality. I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal. Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases at the 117 fee-charging parks as opposed to larger increases proposed for 17 highly-visited national parks.
“The $11.6 billion 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. This is just one of the ways we are carrying out our commitment to ensure that national parks remain world class destinations that provide an excellent value for families from all income levels.”
The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.
“Repairing infrastructure is also about access for all Americans,” Secretary Zinke said. “Not all visitors to our parks have the ability to hike with a 30-pound pack and camp in the wilderness miles away from utilities. In order for families with young kids, elderly grandparents, or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers.”
Fees to enter national parks predate the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. For example, Mount Rainier National Park began charging an entrance fee in 1908. Factoring in inflation, the $5 entrance fee the park charged in 1914 would be the equivalent of a $123 entrance fee today—more than four times the price of the new seven-day $30 vehicle pass.
Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.
In addition to implementing modest fee increases and enhancing public-private partnerships aimed at rebuilding national parks, Secretary Zinke is working closely with Congress on proposed bipartisan legislation to use revenue derived from energy produced on federal lands and waters toestablish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for “National Park Restoration”. The billfollows the blueprint outlined in Secretary Zinke and President Trump’s budget proposal, the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund.
The National Park Service has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Some parks not yet aligned with the other parks in their category will raise their fees incrementally and fully incorporate the new entrance fee schedule by Jan. 1, 2020.