Skyline Drive view of Rappahannock might not come cheap

A Shenandoah National Park ranger at the Thornton Gap entrance station didn’t mind sharing her personal views surrounding the National Park Service’s (NPS) proposed fee hikes for Shenandoah and 16 other highly visited national parks during peak visitor seasons.

Bottom line: “It’s too expensive for the locals, they won’t come up anymore,” she opined.

By John McCas
Two elderly couples celebrate reaching the summit of Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park last weekend by capturing the moment on camera.

The ranger expressed her opinion after handing a carload of visitors written notice of the public comment period deadline of November 23 surrounding the significant proposed fee hike. (If you wish to weigh in, click into the website https://parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates; or else written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240).

During the peak season at each park, the entrance fee would jump to a whopping $70 per private vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be $75.

In comparison, to enter Shenandoah today costs $25 per private vehicle, which covers passengers for seven consecutive days beginning on the day of purchase, $20 per motorcycle, and $10 per bike or individual. An annual pass at Shenandoah is currently $50.

The proposed fee structure would be implemented at Shenandoah, Acadia, Mount Rainier and Rocky Mountain National Parks beginning on June 1, 2018; at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks starting on May 1, 2018; and at Joshua Tree National Park beginning sometime in 2018.

The NPS says the increase “would generate badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure” including “roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services.”

According to Shenandoah spokeswoman Sally Hurlbert, Shenandoah National Park alone is facing a $75 million backlog in maintenance projects.

“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting.

“We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today. Shoring up our parks’ aging infrastructure will do that.”

 

About John McCaslin 134 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.

1 Comment

  1. This proposal is designed by the Trump administration to lower visitation at the parks while simultaneously starving them of much-need funding, thereby damaging public support for our National Park Service. Acting under the direction of Secretary Zinke (a Trump appointee), National Parks will be forced to provide a far diminished experience at a much higher cost.

    The Trump administration’s proposal to raise fees would generate, according to DOI’s own estimates, a maximum of $69 million of additional income. This would sound fantastic, except that Trump has proposed cutting annual appropriations to the NPS by over $500 million (Source: https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/05-23-2017-budget-proposal.htm). The net impact of Trump’s proposals for our National Parks would be to reduce funding for the parks by 431 million, or 14%. The administration is hailing Trump’s budget cuts and fee increases as a way to rebuild failing infrastructure in our National Parks, while the actual impact will be to starve our National Parks of the funding they need to exist (see Zinke’s comments and the press release linked above).

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