Success Story: Interior Department Drops Outrageous Entrance Fee Proposal

Multiple news sources report that the U.S. Department of the Interior is backing away from a plan to dramatically increase entrance fees at 17 of the most popular national parks after receiving more than 100,000 public comments from Americans nearly unanimously opposed to the idea. The apparent decision is widely perceived as good news for park visitors.

The fee hike proposal was originally released for public comment in October 2017, when it was touted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as a way to address the National Park Service (NPS) deferred maintenance backlog. Under the proposal, peak season entrance fees would be established at 17 national parks during each park’s busiest contiguous five month period of visitation. During that period, entrance fees would more than double at those parks to $70 per vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, or $30 per person. All of the funds would be used to improve facilities, infrastructure, and visitor services, with an emphasis on deferred maintenance projects, generating perhaps as much as $70 million annually.

Public outcry over the draconian hike in entrance fees was swift. The proposal was vigorously and almost universally opposed by gateway communities, park visitors, and park advocacy groups such as the Coalition, as well as by state and federal elected officials on a bi-partisan basis. Common criticisms included concern that the increases would unfairly impact families traveling with school kids during the summer season. Many also expressed concern that the revenue generated by such an extreme increase would still be insufficient to make a dent in the NPS maintenance backlog, absent a major increase in NPS appropriations.

While the plan to dramatically hike entrance fees at 17 of the most popular national parks has apparently been dropped, some type of scaled-down entrance fee increase remains almost certain and will likely be announced by the Interior Department in the weeks ahead.

To read the Coalition’s November 2017 comments about the entrance fee proposal, see: https://protectnps.org/comments-on-proposed-targeted-fee-increases-at-17-national-parks/