National Parks won’t raise fees after all

Zion National Park.

There was good news in the paper last week: The National Park Service is abandoning its plan to raise entrance fees at the 17 most-visited parks, including Grand Canyon and Zion in the West and Acadia and Smoky Mountains in the East.

Apparently, the park service received more than 109,000 comments on the proposed hikes during its two-month public comment period. Most of those comments were opposed to the plan.

Backing off the proposed hikes is good news for local officials and businesses in places like Utah and Arizona where many of the most popular parks are located.

It’s also good news for the average American family planning to visit any of these spectacular places. Although the fees would have been graduated throughout the year, peak season summer rates of $70 per vehicle would have priced many of these parks out of the budget for families. And that is when folks with kids on school vacation would be likely to visit.

The increases would have raised $70 million per year for the parks service, allowing it to tackle the huge backlog of maintenance projects waiting in its 413 units. Those include not only what we think of as “parks,” but also national monuments, battlefields, presidential homes, and similar important and historic places.

Remember when Ohio had a similar problem with a maintenance backlog? But that is gradually being addressed through belt-tightening elsewhere in the state budget.

I am a frequent visitor to the western parks and I often take friends to Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon. In fact, I was at all three of those parks last fall.

While I am generally opposed to any fee increases, I am less opposed to upping the admission prices for commercial tour operators. These folks bring busloads of visitors to the parks in peak seasons. I’ve noticed that many of these visitors are foreigners on extended vacations.

While I am pleased these folks are discovering America’s great natural beauty, I suspect they could well afford to pay more for the experience.

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard