Parks may increase entrance fees ahead of U.S. National Park Service centennial

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Visiting the Grand Canyon and other national parks could get a little pricier.

The National Park Service said 115 of its 401 units plan to seek public comment on entrance fees that could go up starting next year. It’s part of a broader effort by the agency to bring in more money for visitor services and start addressing a backlog of projects ahead of its centennial.

“Obviously everyone would love to have fees not go up, but we also know the reality is budgets have been static and tight,” said Patrick O’Driscoll, a spokesman in the agency’s Intermountain Region based in Denver. “Fees are one of the only ways that parks can try to catch up with some important improvements, badly needed upgrades.”

The Grand Canyon announced a proposal Friday to increase its single-vehicle entrance fee from $25 to $30 for a seven-day pass. Efforts to raise fees at other parks across the country will be wide-ranging but cannot top certain limits. The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and Sequoia are among 10 parks where proposed entrance fees will be capped at $30 per vehicle or $15 per person, for example, the Park Service said.

About 130 national park units charge entrance fees, and they are able to keep 80 per cent of those fees for use within the individual park. The other 20 per cent goes into a pool and is distributed to parks that don’t charge visitors to enter.

Entrance fees pay for things like repairs and maintenance, visitor exhibits and resource protection. At the Grand Canyon, a percentage of entrance fees is set aside for eventual replacement of aging water pipelines.

Under the Grand Canyon’s proposal, prices for visitors on motorcycles also would go up from $20 to $25. Bicyclists and pedestrians would be charged $15, up from $12. Annual passes would go from $50 to $60. The price of a pass to visit any of the national park units would remain the same at $80 per year.

The public has 60 days to weigh in on the proposed increases at Grand Canyon. Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis wrote in an August memo that a park could chose not to implement proposed fees if there is significant public outcry.

One national monument in southern Arizona has since decided to eliminate its $5 entrance fee per person. Chiricahua National Monument spokeswoman Julena Campbell said raising prices didn’t make sense because many people who visit the monument known for its volcanic rock formations already use an interagency pass or have discounted passes.

Grand Canyon spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said the park receives about $18 million per year from entrance fees. The park last increased its per-vehicle fee in 1997 from $20 to $25.

Darren Weigl, who works at an outdoors shop in Flagstaff, said the proposed increase is reasonable. He would like to see the extra money go to educational programs.

“I imagine if they’re getting less or staying stagnant, you have to create revenue in some way to keep people enjoying it,” he said. “If it’s for the betterment of the park, I’m for it.”

Lloyd and Linda Andersen of Sun City, senior citizens who have a $10 lifetime pass to national park units, said the Grand Canyon should consider raising that fee to keep people who are unemployed or families struggling with money from having to pay more to enter.

“Let the younger families keep enjoying it without raising it,” Linda Andersen said. “They won’t come.”

Her husband suggested people could cut down on expenses inside the park and spend the extra money to get through the gates. “Seeing it is the best part,” Lloyd Andersen said.

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