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Higher Visitor Fees Proposed At Everglades National Park

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New visitor fees are being proposed at Everglades National Park/NPS

Higher fees designed to bring Everglades National Park in line with national rate schedules are being proposed, with the additional revenues to be earmarked for maintenance needs and visitor services. Open for public comment are increases in daily and weekly entrance fees, as well as the cost for the annual Everglades National Park pass.

Everglades officials have been creative with their fee revenues. Most recently, the park stockpiled fee revenues so it could encourage bidders to run concessions at Flamingo near the southern tip of the park. Some $5 million was saved for use as a "sweetener" to attract a company to rebuild some of the infrastructure that was wiped out by two hurricanes back in 2005.

That money was thought to have enticed Guest Services, Inc., to submit the winning bid for the project, as it will help cover some of the upfront costs expected in bringing overnight accommodations back to Flamingo. (Traveler note: The contract has yet to be finalized and pass congressional review.)

And yet, the visitor services at Flamingo are just part of the investments needed at Everglades. 

With a parkwide deferred maintenance backlog that exceeds $88 million, the amount of investment needed is significant. Over the next five years, an additional $14.5 million worth of investments are anticipated, including the conversion of the former Flamingo restaurant into a new visitor center; the rehabilitation of sewage lift stations in the Flamingo District; the replacement of the Pa-hay-okee, Snake Bight, and West Lake boardwalks, and; pavement preservation work at Shark Valley, Royal Palm, and the Coe Visitor Center.

To address the funding gap, park managers have analyzed the park’s current fees and fee collection practices with the intention of setting a new fee structure that is equitable for all park visitors.

In alignment with national standards, the proposed fee for the Everglades National Park Annual Pass is scheduled to move from $40 to $50, while the pedestrian rate (for walk-in, paddle-in, and bike-in visitors) would go from $8 to $12. The changes are proposed to begin in January 2018. Also proposed to increase is the private vehicle/motorboat 7-day pass, from $25 currently to $30. The seven-day vehicle and motorcycle rates were just increased last October.

Camping fees also are expected to increase in 2018, though how much remains to be seen. The park plans to shift operation of campgrounds at Long Pine Key and Flamingo to a concessionaire, which will base rates on those charged in surrounding areas.

Following a successful pilot program last year, new technology will be implemented at Everglades that will allow for the purchase of park entrance passes via a smartphone or mobile device. Recent expansion of cellular service in the park will make this technology available to all visitors, including those who enter through a marine boundary. 

“It is important that all visitors to Everglades National Park share in the responsibility of caring for the park’s infrastructure. Thanks to advancements in technology, we are confident that we can make this easier for everyone," said Everglades Superintendent Pedro Ramos.

Park managers are also proposing to eliminate more than a half dozen fees from its current fee schedule.

“Our goal is to provide a high-quality visitor experience that begins at the entrance gate,” said Deputy Superintendent Justin Unger. “By eliminating these fees in favor of a more robust entrance fee program, we will be able to reduce visitor confusion over our fee schedule and hopefully speed up entrance lines.”

“We invite everyone to comment on these proposed fee changes,” said Superintendent Ramos. “Public participation is at the heart of the National Park Service planning and decision making process.”

Public meetings are scheduled in the coming weeks, with additional opportunities to comment by mail or email. Written comments may be mailed to: Proposed Fee Changes, Superintendent, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, Florida, 33034-6733. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. Friday, September 15.

Following the comment period, a recommendation on fee changes will be developed and submitted to the National Park Service Washington, D.C., office for final review and action.

Public Meeting Schedule:

Monday, August 7
Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Eaton Conservation Hall
1495 Smith Preserve Way
Naples, Florida 34102
6-7 p.m.

Tuesday, August 8 
Murray Nelson Government Center
102050 Overseas Highway
Key Largo, Florida 33037
6-7 p.m.

Wednesday, August 9
South Dade Regional Library
10750 SW 211 Street
Cutler Bay, Florida 33189
6-7 p.m.

Thursday, August 10
UF/IFAS Extension Miami-Dade County
18710 SW 288th Street
Homestead, Florida 33030
6-7 p.m.

Comments

I well understand the need for funds for park maintenance.

The one item that disturbs me is contracting out camping reservations. Ohio did this and, in my humble opinion, has lost--not gained--revenue. Instead of purchasing a low-cost software program that would have the ODNR handling all reservations, they contracted with an out-of-state firm.  Now the State only receives a very small portion of the reservation fees.


the increased revenue for ENP is greatly needed. The impact on the general public is small and in some cases costs are reduced. However the increased fees to commercial guys ( like me) are painfull. Please re evaluate the commercial fees increases in reference to the revenue increase versus the drastic reduction in our ability as guides to make a living and provide the public great experience. For example Yellowstone park has a sliding fee with 3% up to 250,000. The new plan for ENP shows increasing to 5% on all $$. That's not comparable. Unless I misunderstand.


I want to comment on the proposed $12 per day per person fee for boaters entering the Everglades Park. For residents of the Keys, Key Largo for me, i think this is terrible. Since we live on an island there are times when weather is not good and this is our only option to get out on the water and enjoy the day. Nest Key which is a great gather place for day boaters will be off limits, and since it is the only Key to use it will be counter productive to enjoyment of this beautiful park.

This measure will only cause an exodus from the park and will re-direct the resources, Officers, to spend their time writing citations instead of watching for fish being taken illegally or unwarranted boats in other restricted non-motorized areas.

Please don't do this !!!!!


This plan is terrible! 

President Roosevelt established the Nationa Park system for the FREE enjoyment of the general public. 

This plan is very poorly thought out, not enforcable, not practical, and will finacially burden the general public and the tour boat operators of the National Park! not to mention the hotels, and other business reatlated to the park here in Key Largo.

You must not put this plan into effect.

 

 

 

 


Ah, the timeless mantra of "Give me all the facilities and services I want, but don't you DARE ask ME to pay for any of them!"


There is no FREE. Never was. Come to terms with that myth or nothing but disappointment awaits


I understant there is a need for more money to go for the Everglades Park, and I don't think the fishing guides and the eco tour guides are disagreeing with that. What we disagree with is having to ask our customers to go on line and register with the park and pay a $12-$15 fee per person, before our trip leaves. Our customers usually book the day of the trip and are here for a day or two on there way to Key West or returning from Key West, so the 7 day pass doesn't do much for us. It will be a burden on them that I don't feel that would take the time to do, so we would lose the charter. You would really be ruining our business if this passes.

We feel the 400% increase that we are paying for our Everglades Permit fee is sufficient, and our customers should not be bothered.

 


Now that puts an entirely different light on it, Jill.  But can't your company simply buy permits for your customers, or is it necessary that they personally obtain one themselves?

If that's the case, I agree it is a problem.  


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