At 17 national parks across the country, the price of admission may increase drastically soon. There are many issues that have led to this proposal being made, including a substantial deficit in park budgets. While the price increase would affect less than twenty parks, most of which are in the west, it is a big enough change to have a potential impact on park attendance and other important aspects of park visitation.
To fully understand why this price increase is being proposed, there are many things that must be understood. The changes that may be made, the reasoning behind the increase, possible issues with the increase, and how individuals can comment on this and make a difference are all important things to consider.
Of the 118 national parks that charge entrance fees, only 17 of them are proposing a price increase. These parks include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and other popular parks across the western part of the country. These parks have all experienced an increase in visitors over the past few years, which is a part of the reason these increases are being proposed.
The increase will be different in each park, but it will take most fees from about $30 to around $70. This increase is the largest in the recent history of the parks. This increase will only be in effect for the five busiest months of the year, which is usually May through September. This proposed increase is projected to generate about $70 million each year. This money will go a long way in protecting, preserving, and improving parks across the country.
These increases would come at a time where the parks are getting more visitors than ever before. Year after year, records on visitation are being broken. The extra money given to the parks by these many visitors will go a long way in helping to improve the parks.
Reasons Behind Increase
There are many valid reasons for the National Park Service to consider raising prices drastically at 17 of their parks. These extra funds are planned to be allocated for a variety of projects and activities, most of which are to help beautify, preserve, and improve many aspects of the parks. Things like restrooms, picnic areas, guest services, and even park activities will have the funds needed to be improved greatly in a relatively short amount of time. This is something that, with the cuts to the NPS budget, would be very difficult to do otherwise.
The attendance at these parks has increased drastically and only seems to be increasing as the years continue. This is great news in many ways. It’s always a positive thing when people are spending more time outdoors, exploring natural beauty. The only problem with this increase is that these parks are not equipped to handle such huge crowds. Over the past few years, this huge increase has put a strain on how the parks can be run and, also, has decreased the quality of visits for many guests. A hefty price increase may curb these huge crowds, meaning that visitors who pay the high price to get in will be able to enjoy their experience more without hordes of people in the park.
The increase in price will help more than just the parks who are collecting admission fees. Of the funds collected, 80% will go to helping that individual park and 20% goes to helping other national parks who do not collect admission fees. These smaller parks rely on these funds from other parks to keep their gates open and their staff employed. The increase in admission fees at these 17 parks will drastically increase the amount of money these parks will receive and will, in turn, allow them to make their parks more beautiful and welcoming.
While such a large price increase may seem extreme, when considering the amount of money it costs to visit nearly any other area in the United States, the price is quite reasonable. Especially since the entrance fee allows for access to the park for the entire week. While the National Park Service doesn’t want to price anyone out of the parks, this increase can be a simple solution to a growing problem.
Many people fear that this price increase during busy months will drastically reduce the number of people visiting the parks. While it would be positive to have slightly fewer people flocking to parks like Zion, Bryce, and many more, it would be devastating if park attendance dropped drastically.
Another issue could be that parks would be pricing themselves out of the reach of people who really benefit from them. Large families, low-income families, and the elderly may not have the funds available to visit these parks. Before the price increase, a visit to their nearest national park may have been the best and most rewarding trip they could have taken. But, if it costs three times as much, it could make a park visit impossible.
The last issue on many people’s minds is whether the funds will be used in the right places. It is important that revenue from these price increases would go toward making the parks more beautiful and enjoyable. Large amounts of money allocated toward things that are not related to preserving and improving the condition of the parks and park structures would lead to little change in the state if the parks and would be a major disappointment for visitors.
Comment Period Now Open
On Tuesday, October 24th, the comment period for those interested was opened and it will remain open until Thursday, November 23rd. During this time, anyone who has input about the proposed increase, either positive or negative, can let their voice be heard. These public comments will be taken into consideration when this proposed increase moves toward becoming a reality.
Those interested can go to the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website to submit their relevant comment or mail a written comment to:
1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346
Washington, D.C. 20240.