Updates from ASLA

Fees at 17 Popular National Parks May Soon Be Rising Sharply

Congress has a better solution.

On October 24, Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a proposal to begin charging higher peak-season fees for five months per year at 17 national parks, including some of the country’s most beloved. Affected parks include Acadia; Arches; Bryce Canyon; Canyonlands; Denali; Glacier; Grand Canyon; Grand Teton; Joshua Tree; Mount Rainier; Olympic; Rocky Mountain; Sequoia & Kings Canyon; Shenandoah; Yellowstone; Yosemite; and Zion. Under the proposal, entrance fees could rise from $25 to $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle. Fees for individual motorcyclists would be $50, and per person on bike or foot, $30.

The administration states that the fee increases are needed to address the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog of National Park Service (NPS) projects. However, the increased park fees would only raise around $70 million annually — just a tiny fraction of what our national parks need to address the maintenance backlog. Congressional leaders have called foul, expressing concerns that the proposal would hinder working families and some underserved communities from taking advantage of these public spaces.

“Many of my constituents woke up to, literally, shock over the fact that these exorbitant rates would be charged in our parks systems,” said Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), whose state includes two of the 17 impacted parks, Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (AK) stated that she is “concerned about the proposed doubling of national park entrance fees and will be looking into holding a hearing on the proposal.”

Bipartisan legislation is moving through Congress that would nearly eliminate NPS’s maintenance backlog. The National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017 (S. 751, H.R.2584) aims to reduce the maintenance backlog at the NPS by establishing a dedicated backlog fund, which will be housed at the Department of Treasury and will receive financing from mineral royalties not otherwise dedicated to other purposes. Under this legislation, $11.3 billion of the approximately $12 billion maintenance backlog would be eliminated by the year 2047. ASLA, along with its coalition partners, endorsed and is advocating for passage of this measure that would comprehensively address the NPS’s maintenance backlog.

Over many years, ASLA has advocated for additional funding for the NPS to carry out its mission and for addressing the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog. Just last year, ASLA worked with legislators and coalition partners to pass and sign into law H.R.4680, the NPS Centennial Challenge Act (P.L. 114-289), which provides funding and other critical resources to help protect and preserve our national parks and address the maintenance backlog.

ASLA advocates for a comprehensive plan to address maintenance for our national parks. The National Park Service Legacy Act, coupled with a responsible federal budget, would nearly eliminate the maintenance backlog, freeing up other park service funds for staffing needs, enhanced visitor experiences, potential projects for landscape architects and other park preservationists, and more. ASLA also supports a national park system that is open and inclusive to the public and all visitors, regardless of age, ability, race, nationality, income level, or other factors.

ASLA encourages all its members to use the iAdvocate Network to contact their legislators about sponsoring the bipartisan National Park Service Legacy Act, which will ensure the continued viability of our national parks for generations to come.

Leave a Comment