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Congaree National Park Considering Fees For Camping, Pavilion Reservations, Ranger-Led Canoeing


At Congaree National Park in South Carolina, officials are proposing to institute fees on front-country camping as well as ranger-led canoe tours next year, in part to help local businesses.

Public comment on the proposed fee increases will be taken for 30 days, beginning Tuesday. Under the proposal, fees also will be collected for picnic pavilion reservations. The revenues would be used in the park for improvements to existing amenities and/or the addition of new amenities for the benefit of the visiting public.

Congaree National Park currently offers free tent camping in designated campground sites in the front country. Individual and group campsites at the Longleaf and Bluff campgrounds have fire rings and picnic tables and access to a water spigot and restroom at the nearby Harry Hampton Visitor Center. Campers self-register and obtain a free permit at each campground.

Part of the park's justification for imposing the camping fees is that Congaree's free camping is currently undercutting local parks and businesses that offer comparable camping for a fee. The initiation of a camping fee at Congaree will also offer the park the opportunity to improve campground amenities to potentially include additional individual and group campsites, accessible campsites, tent pads, water spigots, lantern hangers, electric hookups and improved informational and interpretive media and signage at the campgrounds.

A single picnic pavilion with ten picnic tables is located adjacent to the visitor center parking lot. Additional picnic tables and grills nearby provide a gathering place for large groups. Use of the pavilion is currently free on a first-come first-served basis. Groups often inquire about reserving the pavilion for large family gatherings. A fee for pavilion reservations would allow Congaree the opportunity to provide a system for reserving use of the facility and improve amenities such as grills, tables, and potentially the addition of new pavilions to other areas of the park. When not reserved, the pavilion would remain free and open to the visiting public.

The proposal to charge for the ranger-led canoe tours also is aimed at helping local businesses. Congaree currently offers a limited number of free ranger-guided canoe tours on Cedar Creek. The park provides all required equipment and visitors are led by an interpretive park ranger on a two-hour paddle trip.

Local canoe outfitters operating under park-issued Commercial Use Authorizations conduct more than 100 similar tours each year in the park, for a fee.

"The free ranger-guided programs are in direct competition with these outfitters," park officials said in a release discussing the proposed fees. "Additionally, although the ranger-guided tours are very popular with park visitors, the program is not sustainable long-term with the park's current staffing and budget levels. A fee program would provide for improved competition with local outfitters. It would also allow the park to recover the cost of operating the tours, possibly offer additional tours and purchase safe and adequate equipment, including personal flotation devices, canoes, kayaks, paddles and canoe trailering equipment."

During the next 30 days public comments will be compiled and addressed by park staff and a fee proposal will be forwarded to regional and Washington offices of the National Park Service for review and approval.

To comment online visit .

Two public meetings will be held in the areas around Congaree to allow the public to direct questions, concerns or comments to park staff:

* Thursday, September 5; 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. @ Richland Library Main, Bank of America Conference Room, 1431 Assembly St., Columbia, South Carolina

* Tuesday, September 10; 5:30 p.m. -7:30 pm @ Richland Library Eastover, 608 Main Street, Eastover, South Carolina


There is no link available per this article to comment on the fee increase. When you click the one provided it links to essentially nothing.


The comment period opens tomorrow.

I'm gonna throw a huge tantrum.

Imagine, expecting ME -- a loyal American taxpayer -- to pay FEES for special services I use that are not going to be paid by people who do not use those special services!

Shame upon the Park Service! Am I not ENTITLED to everything I want, when I want it, and where I want it without being asked to pay for it?

I believe this comment from your profile says it all:

One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the quality of the people who wear the uniforms of the National Park Service -- whether they be maintenance workers, rangers, or volunteers. There is no finer bunch of folks anywhere on this dizzy old planet.

As a trail volunteer myself, I appreciate that. As someone who has opened their eyes to the corruption of the NPS through varying scandals, not the least of which are their egregious fee over reaches, I disagree. But I don't expect any impartiality from someone who is economically benefitting from something.

Here's the link for commenting...

But as Dahkota noted, comment window might not open until tomorrow.

For the record, Smokies, I do not benefit economically from the NPS or government in any way. I'm just one of those folks who believes that if I want a service of any kind I need to either pay for it or work for it either through taxes, fees, or volunteering. I think it's something called personal responsibility.

As for corruption in high places, I'm as disgusted and dismayed over that as anyone can be. The filthy fingers of political and monied corruption have reached into almost every part of our government (and business, too). However, if you get out and meet the folks on the ground who are actually doing the real work of keeping our parks going, you'll discover that they are, indeed, some of the finest people you'll find anywhere.


Since I pay taxes, volunteer for the park and work, I believe I have paid enough. Using your logic then we should all have to pay a dollar for each library book we check out from a library . Same with fire, police and garbage. Sleeping on the ground where no amenities are provided by the NPS other than the land God created and locals donated doesn't entitle them to double tax me or anyone else.

And the upper echelon of the NPS is calling the shots. The NPS needs a culture change worse than any organization in the federal government. Fee scandals and concessionaire scandals and privatization hints are clearest indicators of this. Jewell is a bigger joke than Jarvis. Straight from the corporate sector from a company that profits from the NPS system is a clear sign where congress is heading with the NPS. And that should worry you, as a retired NPS person, more than anything.

I think it is an amenity that the land exists there for me to use it in the first place. Ditto the roads into and through the parks. And that there are people there willing to answer questions, people to provide help if I need it, benches to sit on, places to go to the bathroom...the list goes on. So, that is where my taxes go. My entry fee goes towards maintaining those lands and those roads and those jobs... My volunteer time goes towards my enjoyment of the land - I volunteer for trail maintenance, litter pick up, etc. because it makes me happy both when I do it and when I see the results (purely selfish of me, really).

If I am going to camp there or have a party there or go on a ranger guided tour, I will pay more. Why? Because I think it is worth it. The value I get far exceeds the pitance I have to pay.

BTW - only 1% of my taxes (of anyone's taxes) goes towards Natural Resources and Environment. Of that, about 5% goes towards the National Park System, or less than .05% of my total tax bill. For my family last year, that amounted to $11. Yes, $11 of my tax dollars went for NPS. I'm pretty sure I owe them more than they owe me.

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