As part of an effort to address aging park infrastructure and to improve the visitor experience, the National Park Service (NPS) announced changes to entrance fees at national parks.
Most seven-day vehicle passes to enter national parks will be increased by $5, to be implemented in many parks beginning June 1, 2018. More than two-thirds of national parks will remain free to enter.
The changes come in response to feedback on a fee proposal released in October 2017, which would have raised peak-season entrance fees at 17 of the nation's most popular national parks to $70 per private, noncommercial vehicle.
All of the revenue from the fee increases will remain within NPS, with at least 80 percent of the money staying in the park where it is collected. The funds will be used to address the $11.6 billion in deferred maintenances across the system of 417 parks, monuments, and historic and cultural sites.
"I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original free proposal," said United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in a statement from NPS. "Your input has helped up 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."
NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.
"Repairing infrastructure is also about access for all Americans," 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 infrastructures like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers."
Zinke is also working closely with Congress on proposed bipartisan legislation to use revenue derived from energy produced on federal lands and waters to establish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for addressing restoration within the national parks.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.