National Park Service Proposes Peak Season Price Hikes - Opposing Views

National Park Service Proposes Peak Season Price Hikes

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The National Park Service is considering doubling entry fee prices at the nation's most popular parks, according to an Oct. 24 news release.

The increase comes one year after the NPS's successful 2016 "Find Your Park" centennial celebration campaign, which attracted the highest tourist counts the park system has ever seen.

Last year's tourist surge of 331 million individuals caused 90-minute-long wait times to find parking and more than three-hour-long wait times to pass through West Yellowstone's entrance, The Denver Post reports. It also revealed infrastructure deficiencies with handling high-capacity visitation to the parks.

Among other proposals, NPS suggested price hikes as one way of funding new infrastructure for the parks. The money would also allow the NPS to address its extensive backlog of maintenance projects that have yet to be addressed.

"The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in the NPS's Oct. 24 proposal. "Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting."

The fee increases would cause prices to double or triple at 17 of the 118 parks that charge an entrance fee. Meanwhile, 299 parks will remain free. NPS would only implement the increased fees for five months beginning in May or June, which is considered the start of "peak season."

Entry fees would increase to $70 from its current rate of $25 to $30 for a private vehicle during, CNN reports. Motorcycle fees would jump from between $15 to $25 to $50, while pedestrians and bicyclists could pay $30 as opposed to the current price of $10-$15.

The NPS estimates the new prices could generate as much as $70 million of additional revenue per year.

Many individuals are supportive of the change since the money will be used to fund park-related projects. Others say the government should provide maintenance costs, not visitors.

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Theresa Pierno, head of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, criticized the NPS for raising visitor prices while the Trump administration proposes to cut $1.5 billion, or 12 percent, of the agency's funding.

"We should not increase fees to such a degree as to make these places -- protected for all Americans to experience -- unaffordable for some families to visit..." Pierno said in a statement, CNN reports. "...If the administration wants to support national parks, it needs to walk the walk and work with Congress to address the maintenance backlog."

The NPS is accepting public comments from Oct. 24 to Nov. 23. Comments can be made on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website.

Sources: National Park Service, CNN, The Denver Post / Featured Image: Jacob W. Frank/NPS / Embedded Images: Diliff/Wikimedia Commons, NPS

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