Fees going up at America’s national parks

The new and increased fees for admission, snowmobiling, boating and back-country camping will help raise an estimated $30 million to $50 million over three years for sites managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, department officials said.
“Even with the pilot fee increase, a family of four can enjoy a week’s visit to Yosemite, Yellowstone or Glacier national parks for less than it costs to see a first-run movie,” Babbitt said.
“While everything else has gone up in price over the past 70 years, Yellowstone is still $10 per car,” he said. “That’s less than the price of a good video of the park, and much less than it costs to visit an imitation Yellowstone at an amusement park in Florida.”
The most significant increases under the trial program will occur beginning next year at four of the most-visited U.S. national parks — Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Grand Tetons — where the cost of an annual pass per carload will go from the current $15 to $40.
The fee at those parks will rise from the current $10 to $20 per car for seven days. Fees at most other identified sites will range from $2 per person to about $20 per car.
Congress approved and President Clinton signed into law earlier this year the measure allowing the agencies to raise the fees, or begin charging them for the first time in some cases.
“These new fees will be a down payment on the resource protection, restoration and general maintenance that the parks desperately need,” said Paul Pritchard, president of the National Parks and Conservation Association.
“They will help the parks, and in the long run, visitors will benefit too. Even with the increases, national parks are still the best education bargain around,” he said.
Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the interior, said Tuesday he was pleased to see Babbitt moving so quickly on the new fees, which will be phased in at various sites next year.
“Tax dollars alone can no longer fully satisfy the demand for increased recreation opportunities and facilities. This will provide much needed financial resources for the areas collecting fees to enhance the visitor’s experience,” he said.
The fees will be the first ever at the Bureau of Land Management, where 17 sites will begin charging daily fees for entrance and camping. The plans also cover 47 National Park sites and 42 Fish and Wildlife Service sites.
Annual entrance fees will rise from the current $15 to $20 at, among others, Acadia, Badlands, Crater Lake, Everglades, Glacier, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Shenandoah national parks. Olympic National Park’s annual fee will rise from $15 to $25.
Great Smokey Mountain National Park will charge a $2 fee per visitor and Redwoods National Park a $20 fee per visitor — a new fee at both sites.
Interior Department spokesman John Wright said that the department was reviewing the use of passes such as the $25 Golden Eagle good for unlimited access to all national parks for a year. In the meantime, he said, such passes will be honored.
The 106 public land sites affected by the new fee schedules account for about 5 percent of the total federal land sites.
Babbitt said planned improvements include:

ù Rehabilitating campgrounds and opening new trails at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Wyoming and Montana.
ù Repairing 60 miles of trails in Georgia’s Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
ù New grills and picnic tables for Florida’s Everglades National Park.
ù New shuttle buses for California’s Yosemite National Park.
ù Handicapped access to fishing at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, south of the Twin Cities.
ù 50 acres of rehabilitated wetland habitat for hunters in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.