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NPS Director Bomar Extends Freeze on Fee Increases at National Parks


With hopes of luring more visitors to the National Park System, National Park Service Director Mary Bomar is extending a freeze on fee increases at the parks through the upcoming fiscal year.

In a memo recently sent out to regional directors, the director's office says the hold on fee increases will affect entrance fees, expanded "amenity fees," and special recreation fees allowed by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.

Regional directors, however, can ask for exceptions to this directive.


Kudos to Director Bomar for a good decision. American families struggling with gas prices and the credit crunch aren't likely to be willing to pay increased rates for something as discretionary as visiting a National Park. In fact, at $25, Parks like Grand Canyon are already overpriced - and that doesn't include your backcountry permit! If the Parks are priced so high that working families don't go, then the NPS loses its constituency and base of support, which is a terrible loss for all concerned. The Parks should be reducing entrance fees, not just freezing them, although that is a good first step. And Congress should get busy passing Senate bill S.2438 The Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act, which would eliminate layered fees for backcountry access and interpretive programs even after an entrance fee has been paid. The sense of ownership Americans feel in their public lands is diminished every time you have to pay yet another fee to visit them.

You want to talk discretionary? How about ball games, plays, or movies? You say $25 is overpriced, yet you probably don't think twice about paying $9 for a movie ticket and another $9 for a popcorn and coke.

I disagree with this move by Director Bomar and I totally agree with the second comment sent in.
People pay $40+ each for one day in a "water park", whereas the carload can visit our National Parks/Monuments for considerably less than that. If they plan on visiting several times and/or several parks, they can buy a season pass good for all for less than one person single day at an "amusement park".
This is one of the fairest fees of all as it is only paid by persons enjoying the benefits ! Congress certainly isn't doing much to help pay for our National Parks and the money has to come from somewhere ! Parks have to be maintained and the money has to come from somewhere.
If you live near a park and love it, please look into volunteering. If we would all only help one weekend a year that would mount to a tremendous savings.

Betty, you raise some good points. The parks as currently priced are a great value when compared to amusement parks, theaters, etc.

But let me be the devil's advocate for a moment or two. In theory, Americans pay for the national parks through their taxes. True, there's traditionally always been nominal fees to get into the parks. But there's pressure in some areas to push fees even higher. The question to be answered/debated, is how high is too high? In the overall scheme of things $25 isn't much, although to some it's a half-tank of gas, or perhaps lunch. If Director Bomar hadn't stepped in with the fee freeze, a visit to the parks would have gotten even more expensive next year.

Along with the entrance fees, more and more parks are charging higher and higher fees for interpretive experiences. The growth in these fees is directly related to Congress' failure to adequately fund the national parks. When you start adding all these fees up, a visit to a national park is not exactly the bargain it used to be, especially when you add on lodging and dining costs.

Your point about volunteering also is well-taken. But more and more parks are being forced to use more and more volunteers for jobs rangers used to handle. Full-time rangers aren't yet an endangered species in the parks, but some might say they're certainly threatened.

So coming full circle, if we continue to allow Congress to give short-shrift to the national parks, fees for entry to the parks and interpretive programs in theory will grow to the point where some Americans will effectively be locked out of a national park visit, and more volunteers -- some wonderfully adept, some not quite so -- than rangers will be running the show. Is that a good thing?

Should we as supporters of the parks stand idly by and let this happen, digging deeper into our pockets to get into the parks and, in some cases, to wander through history (ie paying $12 a head to tour the gun room at Springfield Armory National Historic Site), or should we pressure Congress to adequately fund the parks?

I think it's absurd and offensive to compare the national park experience with that of a $40-per-head amusement park. Amusement parks exist for entertainment. National parks exist to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of our national and natural heritage and identity -- an absolute necessity for informed citizenship.

A visit to a national park is an experience all Americans should be encouraged to do, not only as taxpayers who ought to be funding the management of the national parks, but as citizens who need to be inspired by America's natural beauty, know how our ecosystems work and understand the nuances of our history so they can gain a greater sense of patriotism, a historically- and environmentally-informed view of issues debated among the people and decided in the voting booth and a better understanding of the need for conservation and wildlands. Such an experience -- hardly comparable to an amusement park -- ought to be free for everyone because it's so fundamentally important to our future as a nation.

All a kid needs is a brief encounter with a yellow-bellied marmot, a bear catching fish in a river or an encounter with an African American basketweaver telling the story of her people (at the fee-free Charles Pinckney NHS in SC) to become more aware of the environment she inhabits and the injustices committed in this country's history. That will plant the seed that knowlege of our past is vital to our future and nature is something beautiful and necessary for the wellbeing of humanity. Those experiences are priceless.

Charging $25 to get into, say, Grand Canyon is patently unfair, an almighty rip-off to taxpayers and is cheating every one of us, especially those for whom a visit to a national park is a very expensive proposition. National park entrance stations shouldn't be barriers to our natural and national heritage, they should be welcome mats to our taxpayer-funded parks, encouraging all to come and experience the beauty and history celebrated there. It is absolutely imperitive that we demand that Congress quit cheating our national parks and the people who enjoy them so our entrance fees don't keep away those hungry for knowledge and inspiration gained through recreation.

I have said this before: We the taxpayers have been shafted and burden with the sickening Bush-Iraq war, along with a deliberate wrecked economy (to prevent legitimate entitlements for poor and middle class), with the high cost of living, along with ridiculous huge profiteering by the oil companies (granted by Bush & Cheney Administration)...and now with the housing crises to boot. I say us Americans, who are the back bone of this great Nation (and economy) are being screwed to death by the Bush administration. I say after all this abuse to the American taxpayer: Open all the parks and make it a no fee system! If good people like SaltSage 236 continue to voice and advocate the importance of the National Parks and it's spiritual values (that it enhances) along with it's profound learning experience, we should be so delighted to visit the parks without question of fee hikes...peferrably without fee hikes or even better...a nominal fee or no fee system! If we can support a corrupt and needless war, then I'm sure we can manage and afford are National Parks with a viable budget that would allow such a no fee system.

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