Smith Fellows Oppose Park Fee Increase

The National Park Service has proposed a targeted fee increase at 17 parks. Under this proposal, visiting Acadia, the Grand Canyon, or Mount Rainier would cost $70 per vehicle, a jump of $45 to $50; per person fees would, at minimum, double for peak season visitors. The Park Service presents this plan as a means to increase revenue and help address the deferred maintenance backlog. They are currently soliciting public comments in response to this proposed fee increase and last week a group of SCB Smith Fellows submitted a comment in opposition of this increase.

They write:
“We believe that the targeted fee increases currently proposed for review are a misguided idea. They will reduce access to public lands and disproportionately impact economically disadvantaged segments of the American public who seek these areas to experience nature. National Parks belong to all Americans; these landscapes provide opportunities for recreation, education, conservation and research, and they should remain accessible to all Americans.”

Delicate Arch is a popular destination for visitors in Arches National Park, one of 17 parks with proposed fee increases. Photo credit: Sara Bombaci

In recent years, the NPS has explicitly recognized the importance of reaching a younger and more diverse audience. The Smith Fellows note that “the entrance fee increase would disproportionately affect people already underrepresented in outdoor recreation and conservation science and would contradict current NPS policy of promoting a more diverse visitorship to National Parks." Though Americans are visiting National Parks in record numbers — over 330 million recreation visits were recorded by the National Park Service in 2016 — our direct contact with nature is declining in our everyday lives. As we lose connections with the natural world, we lose the health and well-being benefits associated with spending time outdoors. Reducing access to the National Parks is likely to exacerbate this trend, and disproportionately affect those who cannot afford the increased entrance fee.

The entrance fee increase has been proposed to improve infrastructure and facilities and to provide an enhanced level of service to visitors. However, President Trump’s proposed budget would reduce the NPS budget by 13 percent, with a dramatic loss of $400 million in fiscal year 2018. While the deferred maintenance backlog should certainly be addressed, the Smith Fellows argue that this should be accomplished through a restoration, or even an increase of the NPS budget, not through increased user fees.

Please join the Smith Fellows and submit your own comments on the proposed fee increases by 11:59pm December 22, 2017.