It may soon cost you a heck of a lot more to enjoy the country's natural splendor, as the current Secretary of the Interior is considering a price hike (sorry) for entry into some of the United States' national parks. According to a report from KQED, Ryan Zinke is proposing that entry fees to the more prominent national parks — e.g., Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, and more — be bumped up to $70 per car during peak seasons. This represents a substantial increase over the current rate, which currently asks for $20 to $30 per car. Motorcycle entry would also go up to $50, which is about double the current rate of $12 to $25 per vehicle.
The Merc broke down what "peak season" means under the proposal, and listed which parks would be affected by the hike:
Under Tuesday’s proposal, peak season would run from May 1 to Sept. 30 in these parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion.
The peak season would run from June 1 to Oct. 30 at Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Shenandoah. And Joshua Tree’s peak season would be from Jan. 1 to May 31.
For the rest of the year, the fees would remain at the current rate of $25 to $30 per car, depending on the park.
Zinke said that the fees would go towards maintenance and improvements in the park, namely: maintaining trails, restrooms, roads, and campgrounds. In a statement published to the National Park Service website, Zinke said, "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."
Many are condemning the proposal, saying that it's likely to backfire and would result in lower revenue for the parks, who are already contending with a reduced budget.
The Merc's report on the proposal says that John Gray, Tuolumne County Supervisor (whose district includes Yosemite), pointed out a potential flaw in Zinke's reasoning for the increase. It seems to assume that the parks would see the same attendance numbers after the price hike, which he argues won't happen. "They are thinking they are going to get the same number of visitors,” he said. "But if you more than double the entrance fee, you aren’t going to get the same number of visitors. The gateway communities are very dependent on tourist trade."
This goes without mentioning the fact that a $70 entry fee also potentially bars some families from entering at all. Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, said, "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."
It's worth noting that the NPS' budgetary concerns have been around for quite some time. In June, after the Trump administration proposed their initial budget for the Interior, the NPS expressed worry about having to potentially reduce staffing and close park facilities like campgrounds and more. On top of that, they were concerned that the reduced budget would also impact their ability to protect and preserve the parks as they are, somewhat defeating the purpose of having a National Park Service at all. Even before then, in 2015, the parks were faced with major budgetary concerns, according to a report from Mother Jones, who wrote that it would cost the federal government $11.5 billion to repair many of the country's older public lands.
To address issues in 2015, the Obama administration instituted a price hike for entry fees, though his were perhaps a bit more modest, comparatively speaking: an increase from $20 to $30 per car. At the same time, though, he introduced a program called "Every Kid in a Park," which allows for free park entry to all children four years old and younger along with their parents.
Right now, the entry fee price hike proposal is open for public comment for the next 30 days. You can find instructions on how to share your comment regarding the proposal on the NPS website.