The National Park Service has extended the deadline for commenting on a proposal to drastically raise admission fees. Take advantage of the opportunity.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced plans to raise the gate fee at some parks (although not Mesa Verde) to $70 from current fees of $25 or $30, especially during peak visitor seasons.
Additional funding is needed to begin addressing maintenance backlogs that have developed through years of underfunding the nation’s parks. The appropriations bill being presented to Congress reflects a larger budget to meet those needs. But the drastic fee hike for some of the most popular parks is likely to be counterproductive for those who love them. Anyone who has studied economics knows that as prices rise, demand – in this case, visitation – decreases. Revenue does not increase proportional to price.
At a high enough price point, it actually will drop. That may enable critics of federal public lands to say, “See? Few people love them enough to contribute to the cost of maintenance.”
Although the next step in this plan surely is a similarly sharp increase in the price of an annual pass, right now, anyone who wants to visit just two of the more expensive parks over the course of a year can save money by purchasing the pass.
America’s national parks are places where visitors can gain education, enjoy recreation and learn about conservation. Those are important national values, with a corresponding national benefit when the experiences that support them are widely accessible.
These places are not Disney resorts. They are owned by the American people, and it makes sense that people should be able to pay a reasonable fee, drive right in and enjoy their public lands.
Recent problems related to the FCC’s proposal to scrap net neutrality have suggested that the mechanism for gathering public comments on federal proposals may be unworkable and produce wildly inaccurate results.
Nonetheless, one of the responsibilities of citizenship is participation, so we urge those who appreciate affordable access to national parks to make an effort to preserve that access for all.
Comment at parkplanning.nps.gov. The new deadline is Dec. 22.