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More Parks Pushing Fee Increases At Direction Of Interior Secretary


Officials at Devils Tower National Monument are proposing another increase to its entrance fees after raising them in January/NPS, Avery Locklear

Every week, it seems like another park is asking the public for input on increasing its entrance fees. Turns out, there’s a simple explanation: The Interior Department is telling them to.

And at one park, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, that means implementing two rate increases, ultimately doubling the cost of a seven-day vehicle pass, in just 12 months.

The National Park Service received direction in May that all parks not aligned with their designated fee group, based on park type, must begin civic engagement to raise fees to compliance by 2018, according to one park release. Another cited the Interior Department, and in particular Secretary Ryan Zinke, as the source: “All fee-collecting parks ... have been instructed by the Secretary of the Interior to raise entrance fees to the full level of their assigned tier by January 1, 2018.”

In 2006, the Park Service developed a fee structure to standardize rates across the country. Four groupings were created based on park designation:

Group 1

  • National historic sites, national military parks, national battlefields, national battlefield parks, national memorials or shrines, national preserves, parkways
  • Annual Pass: $30; Per Vehicle: $15; Per Person: $7; Per Motorcycle: $10

Group 2

  • National seashores, national recreation areas, national monuments, national lakeshores, national historical parks
  • Annual Pass: $40; Per Vehicle: $20; Per Person: $10; Per Motorcycle: $15

Group 3

  • National parks
  • Annual Pass: $50; Per Vehicle: $25; Per Person: $12; Per Motorcycle: $20

Group 4

  • National parks (Bryce Canyon, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion)
  • Annual Pass: $60; Per Vehicle: $30; Per Person: $15; Per Motorcycle: $25

However, in 2008, then-Director Mary Bomar imposed a moratorium that froze entrance fees at 2007 levels. That freeze continued until late in 2014. Although parks have been raising fees since then, as 80 percent of collections remain in the park, they until recently did so by choice.

The new directive might be most keenly felt at Devils Tower, where fees were increased just seven months ago, on January 3. But that increase (vehicle entry was raised from $10 to $15) only brought the park in line with Group 1, and all national monuments are supposed to charge at the Group 2 rate, so another proposal is open for comment.

“We understand that no one likes fee increases, but this fee revenue is critical in funding a wider variety of visitor services, facility improvement projects, and resource protection efforts,” Devils Tower Superintendent Tim Reid said in a release. “We ask for public comment and support in taking this step in preserving a quality visitor experience at Devils Tower.”

Devils Tower is joined by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan and a growing list of parks across the country taking input in order to comply with the Interior Department.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is also proposing a second increase in a short period of time. It raised rates in 2016 to Group 1 levels, and national lakeshores are in Group 2. The park also wants to charge $4 more per night at the Platte River and D. H. Day campgrounds.

“The idea of increasing fees is always troubling, but the fact of the matter is we depend on fee revenue to maintain the facilities and services that people expect,” Sleeping Bear Dunes Superintendent Scott Tucker said in a release. “We are committed to keeping the park affordable, but we also want to provide visitors the best possible experience. These fee changes are still an incredible value when compared to other family and recreation opportunities.”

In addition, Sleeping Bear Dunes plans to make its campsites available for reservation beginning in 2019. The D. H. Day Campground averaged over 93 percent occupancy in July and August from 2012 to 2016, with campers routinely turned away. Currently, campers often arrive the day before to wait overnight for a site, creating long lines, illegal camping, and associated safety hazards and resource damage. Although over half of the campsites at Platte River Campground are already available for reservation, all campsites will be available through for arrival dates of May 1 through October 15.


To comment (Devils Tower)

6-8 p.m. Wednesday, August 2, Town Hall, 401 Sager St., Hulett, Wyoming

6-8 p.m. Thursday, August 3, Crook County Courthouse Community Room, Sundance, Wyoming


To comment (Sleeping Bear Dunes)


Us citizens and residents pay taxes for the parks.  They should institute a pricing appropriate to citizenship or residency.  US Citzens/Residents should pay a lower fee than international visitors.  International visitors make up a good percentage of park visitation and they do not pay taxes to support the parks.

Robiz - they don't pay US income taxes but they certainly generate alot of income that is taxed. I'm not sure that discouraging their attendence with higher fees would be a net benefit to the NPS budget.  But then, since we don't get the park by park budgets as required by law, it is tough to make a final determination on that.  

Zinke is almost as much of an embarrassment as his boss, Trump. He thinks he is a Teddy roosevelt but really a Woodrow Wilson. Hey Zinke, since you are so good at cheating Americans out of their tax dollars by padding your travel fund, why don't you put some of those underhanded skills to work for the NPS and steal some defense spending for the agency?  Why?  Because you are too busy fawning over Comrade Trump.  I hope he doesn't stop too fast, you would have to be surgically removed from the Donald's brain.

I am okay with the rate being raised. It is tourists that will be paying those daily rates anyway. Buying the annual pass that is good for all parks is only 85 bucks right now. The majority of locals will buy that pass anyway, so I say raise the daily rate, and make more money for each park. 

If it is a profit model, then we should just do away with tax funding entirely.  You can't have it both ways.  There is no difference between checking a book out at your local library and then paying the library to rent the book.  Same thing with police service and then charging citizens for each collar or bombs in Pakistan, then charging taxpayers for the ones that hit their mark (we might save money there).

Paying to use taxpayer funded resources that were intended to remain accesible to taxpayers is moronic. Entrance fees are tax booths.


I think you're missing something.  Parks are managed for the enjoyment of current AND FUTURE generations.  "Unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations" involves more than putting a fence around it.  Even if we're going for a "user's pay full freight" model for current users, I think taxpayer funding is still appropriate for the preservation for future generations component.  [ECBuck might agree with me on that one, given that the national debt is being passed on to them along with the park resources, they're roughly eventually paying for their access.]  I don't know what the "appropriate" division between current & future users is, and I'd personally vote for minimal entrance fees, but I would not complain if I were out-voted, which I appear to be.

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