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The slight fee uptick probably won't matter much to travelers who could already afford a visit to national parks. But to other travelers, a few extra dollars adds up quickly. The National Park Service is trying to balance both sides out of necessity.

The U.S. National Park Service announced on Thursday that it will raise entrance fees to 66 of its 417 parks, monuments and sites starting this summer.

Seven-day vehicle passes for some 66 national parks will increase by $5 starting June 1 (see chart below), according to a statement from the National Park Service. The entrance fee at Yosemite National Park, one of the most-visited national parks with more than 4.3 million visitors in 2017, will cost $35, a $5 fee hike.

The move was expected after the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the National Park Service, announced in October that it was considering an entrance fee hike.

The decision is meant to bring in more revenue to address the park service’s $12 billion, decades-long maintenance and infrastructure backlog. Last year, about 331 million people visited U.S. national parks and spent more than $18 billion in and around the parks.

About two-thirds of the country’s national parks will still be free, but by 2020 some 117 parks such as Cape Cod National Seashore and Badlands National Park will begin to raise fees. That’s about 28 percent of the total, according to the Interior Department plan.

The National Park Service estimates the new fee structure will generate an increase of $60 million in annual entrance fee revenue once it’s fully implemented in 2020. Entrance fee revenue for fiscal 2016 was about $199 million.

President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget calls for a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would generate an additional $18 billion toward funding maintenance projects during the next decade. Negotiations for the budget are ongoing.

The proposed fund is controversial as it would be partially generated through oil drilling revenues and likely result in National Park Service employee layoffs and sell-offs of public lands that are part of the system.

In March, the Interior Department said it was reconsidering $50 fee hikes that were initially proposed last October after it got more than 100,000 complaints during a public comments period that ran from October through December. But a less extreme bump was still on the table, according to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in the statement.

Zinke said he values the public’s input in the fee hike discussions and said the comments helped shape the final plan. “The $11.6 billion maintenance backlog isn’t going to be solved overnight and will require a multi-tiered approach as we work to provide badly needed revenue to repair infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “This is just one of the ways we are carrying out our commitment to ensuring that national parks remain world-class destinations that provide an excellent value for families from all income levels.”

Zinke also said new maintenance and infrastructure projects are meant to make many parks more accessible for visitors. “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,” he said.

Some 80 percent of the money raised through the increases would directly benefit the park where it was raised.

Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Missouri is one of the parks that will remain free. The Gateway Arch Park Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the park but isn’t part of the National Park Service, recently carried out a decade-long $380 million renovation project that will fully open in July.

The Gateway project addressed most of the park’s maintenance and infrastructure issues that were about 20 years overdue for getting fixed, said Eric Moraczewski, executive director at Gateway Arch Park Foundation.

Most of the project’s funding came from public tax dollars and private sector funding, said Moraczewski.

“What’s great about our project is that 70 percent of the public voted on the project and approved it,” said Moraczewski. “This didn’t just squeak by and our local community has a lot of pride in this project and was willing to let their taxes go up. We think this is a great model and it’s been a long time in the making for us.”

Moraczewski said the initial challenge with the National Park Service was to convince staff that the historical aspect and landmarks of the park wouldn’t be altered because of the project. “The hardest part was convincing them that we have good intentions,” he said. “This is also about improving the accessibility of the park in all its forms and better connecting it with the surrounding community like the nearby Busch Stadium.”

U.S. National Parks With Fee Hikes Starting June 1, 2018

Park Current Park-Specific Annual Pass/June 1, 2018 Current Per Vehicle/June 1, 2018 Current Per Person/June 1, 2018 Current Per Motorcycle/June 1, 2018
Acadia National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $12/$15 $20/25
Adams National Historical Park $40/$45 N/A $10/$15 N/A
Arches National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $10/$15 $15/25
Assateague Island National Seashore $40/$40 $20/$20 $10/$15 $15/25
Bandelier National Monument $40/$45 $20/$25 $10/$15 $15/$20
Big Bend National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $12/$15 $20/$25
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park $40/$50 $20/$25 $10/$12 $15/$15
Bryce Canyon National Park $35/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30
Canyonlands National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $10/$15 $15/25
Castillo De San Marcos National Monument $40/$45 N/A $10/$15 N/A
Cedar Breaks National Monument $25/$30 N/A $6/$7 N/A
Chaco Culture National Historical Park N/A $20/$25 $10/$15 $15/$20
Christiansted National Historic Site N/A N/A $7/$10 N/A
Colorado National Monument $40/$45 $20/$25 $10/$12 $15/$20
Crater Lake National Park $40/$50 $20/$25 $10/$12 $15/$20
Cumberland Island National Seashore $30/$35 N/A $7/$10 N/A
Death Valley National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $12/$15 $20/25
Dinosaur National Park $40/$50 $20/$25 $10/$15 $15/$20
Dry Tortugas National Park $40/$50 N/A $10/$15 N/A
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site N/A N/A $10/$10 N/A
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument $30/$35 N/A $7/$10 N/A
Fort Davis National Historic Site $30/$35 $15/$20 $7/$10 $10/$15
Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine $40/$45 N/A $10/$15 N/A
Fort Smith National Historic Site $30/$35 N/A $7/$10 N/A
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument N/A $10/$20 $5/$10 N/A
Glacier National Park $60/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area $50/$55 $25/$30 $12/$15 $20/25
Golden Spike National Historic Site $15/$20 $7/10 $4/$5 $4/$10
Grand Canyon National Park $60/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30
Grand Teton National Park $60/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30
Gulf Islands National Seashore $40/$40 $15/$20 $7/$10 $10/$15
Haleakala National Park $30/$50 $25/$25 $12/$12 $20/$20
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park $30/$50 $25/$25 $12/$12 $20/$20
James A. Garfield National Historic Site N/A N/A $7/$10 N/A
Joshua Tree National Park $40/$55 $25/$30 $12/$15 $12/$25
Lake Mead National Recreation Area $40/$45 $20/ $10/$15 $15/$20
Lewis & Clark National Historical Park $20/$30 N/A $5/$7 N/A
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument N/A $20/$25 $10/$15 $15/$20
Mount Rainier National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $10/$15 $20/$25
Muir Woods National Monument $40/$45 N/A $10/$15 N/A
Natural Bridges National Monument $50/$55 $15/$20 $7/$10 $10/$15
Olympic National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $10/$15 $20/$25
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument $40/$45 $20/$25 $10/$15 $15/$20
Pea Ridge National Military Park $30/$35 $15/$20 $7/$10 $10/$15
Petrified Forest National Park $30/$40 $20/$20 $10/$10 $10/$15
Pipe Spring National Monument N/A N/A $7/$10 N/A
Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park $30/$50 $5/$15 $3/$7 $10/$10
Rocky Mountains National Park $60/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site $40/$45 N/A $10/$15 N/A
Saint Gaudens National Historic Site $40/$45 N/A $10/$15 N/A
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park $40/$45 N/A $10/$15 N/A
Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks $50/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30
Shenandoah National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $10/$15 $20/$25
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument $40/$45 $20/$25 $10/$15 $15/$20
Theodore Roosevelt National Park $50/$55 $25/$30 $12/$15 $20/$25
Thomas Edison National Historical Park $40/$45 N/A $10/$15 N/A
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site N/A N/A $10/$10 N/A
Vicksburg National Military Park $30/$35 $15/$20 $7/$10 $10/$15
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield $30/$35 $15/$20 $7/$10 $10/$15
Wright Brothers National Memorial $30/$35 N/A $7/$10 N/A
Wupatki National Monument $40/$45 $20/$25 $10/$15 $15/$20
Yellowstone National Park $60/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30
Yosemite National Park $60/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30
Zion National Park $50/$70 $30/$35 $15/$20 $25/$30


Source: U.S. National Park Service


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Tags: fees, national parks, tourism

Photo credit: Entrance fees are set to increase at 17 national parks this summer. Pictured are tourists Joseph Lin, Ning Chao, center, and Linda Wang, left, posing for a selfie along the south rim at Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz, one of the parks part of the fee hike. Emery Cowan / Associated Press

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