The National Park Service is considering a proposal that would increase the entrance fee from $25 to $70 per car from May through September. The proposed fee increase is for 17 parks, including four parks in Utah: Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zions.
The increases are for the five most heavily visited months of the year.
The Park Service states that the raised fees will be used to generate badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks. This includes roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services.
The estimated backlog of National Park maintenance projects was estimated to be $11.5 billion in 2015.
For parks in San Juan County, the backlog was estimated at $65 million at Glen Canyon, $40 million at Canyonlands, $8.5 million at Natural Bridges, and $1.8 million at Hovenweep.
A public comment period for the proposal is open until November 23 at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates. Written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.
The number of visitors is exploding at many of the national park sites. In recent years, visitation has been almost overwhelming during peak times at National Park sites in the Moab area, including Arches and the Island in the Sky District (which is in San Juan County).
Despite some growth, visitation to the Needles District of Canyonlands is still less than it was in the mid-1990s.
“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting.”
If implemented, estimates suggest the peak-season price structure could increase national park revenue by $70 million per year, a 34 percent increase over the $200 million collected in the past year.
A total of 80 percent of an entrance fee remains in the park where it is collected. The other 20 percent is spent on projects in other national parks.
During the peak season at each park, the entrance fee would be $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.
The cost of the annual pass, which provides entrance to all federal lands, including parks for a one-year period, would remain $80. Entrance fees are not charged to visitors under 16 years of age or holders of Senior, Military, Access, Volunteer, or Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) passes.
The majority of national parks will remain free to enter; only 118 of 417 park sites charge an entrance fee, and the current proposal only raises fees at 17 fee-charging parks
The National Park Service is also proposing entry and permit fee adjustments for commercial tour operators. The proposal would increase entry fees for commercial operators and standardize commercial use authorization (CUA) requirements.
All CUA fees stay within the collecting park and would fund rehabilitation projects for buildings, facilities, parking lots, roads, and wayside exhibits that would enhance the visitor experience. The fees will also cover the administrative costs of receiving, reviewing, and processing applications.