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.
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.”