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Thread: Possible Admission Fee increase at some National Parks

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    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Possible Admission Fee increase at some National Parks

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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    I've wrestled with the question of 'pay for use' for a while. I personally don't object to paying for a parking pass in the WMNF since the funds stay in the system locally, I believe. It's also a very small percent of my hiking budget (owning a car, paying for gas, buying gear, etc.). I recognize that there are costs associated with maintaining the vast network of trails and facilities across the region, so I don't expect to get it for free. It's also why I volunteer. However, I don't have a hikesafe card. Partly because I don't believe I'm reckless enough to need one, but partly because I believe that rescue services are a social responsibility.

    The big question I have is, who benefits from these parks? From what I can tell, it's not just the users who are in the park - it's the local communities that surround these parks who enjoy renting out rooms and feeding visitors, and the travel industry as a whole. Will a $50 increase per car keep people who are already spending many hundreds of dollars from visiting? I doubt it, but some of those people may spend less elsewhere (stay one less night, pack a lunch instead of going out etc.), but I don't think it will cut visits in half.

    The main concern I have is that this feels like a step towards running the the National Parks as a business, and that seems to run counter to the whole idea of the National Parks.
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    Senior Member jniehof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJsName View Post
    I've wrestled with the question of 'pay for use' for a while. I personally don't object to paying for a parking pass in the WMNF since the funds stay in the system locally, I believe.
    Generally about 50% of the fees for the fee "demonstration" program stays local. The increase of user fees is part of a strategy explicitly aimed at privatizing public lands. I'm okay with paying in. I'm not okay with privatization.

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    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Acadia is on the list. It's quite a jump, up to $70 per car and $30 per person during the five-month "peak season".

    Here's some more detail: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/showFil...df&sfid=302386


    So if you're in a car with three adults in the car, does your group pay $70 or $160? Note children are free as are holders of various special passes (seniors, military)

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    Senior Member griffin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nartreb View Post

    So if you're in a car with three adults in the car, does your group pay $70 or $160? Note children are free as are holders of various special passes (seniors, military)
    Assuming it continues to work the way it does now, your group pays $70. The individual fees are aimed at people who bike or walk in. Possibly folks arriving via tour bus - not sure about the last group.
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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by griffin View Post
    Assuming it continues to work the way it does now, your group pays $70. The individual fees are aimed at people who bike or walk in. Possibly folks arriving via tour bus - not sure about the last group.
    This was my interpretation as well. I bought the weekly pass when I went to Acadia, and it was good for the car itself, regardless of how many people were in it.
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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jniehof View Post
    Generally about 50% of the fees for the fee "demonstration" program stays local. The increase of user fees is part of a strategy explicitly aimed at privatizing public lands. I'm okay with paying in. I'm not okay with privatization.
    Bummer, I was hoping it was higher. What's your source on that number?

    I think your sentiment jives with what I was getting at in my last line.
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    Maybe they expect the visitor numbers to drop off with higher fees? Bar Harbor is insane in the Summer and MDI is overrun with tourists. Part of the reason I go there in the fall when its cold and blustery. Its like having the park to myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jniehof View Post
    Generally about 50% of the fees for the fee "demonstration" program stays local. The increase of user fees is part of a strategy explicitly aimed at privatizing public lands. I'm okay with paying in. I'm not okay with privatization.
    FS staff members I had talked to in the past expressed their opinions that the parking fee revenue had effectively been offset by the budget process so that there was little or no net impact to the overall WMNF budget after the initial flow of money into the system. When I asked an employee about the reduction in fee lots two years ago they observed that they were reduced to only actively visiting high revenue lots (like the AMC trailheads) as they didn't have the staff positions budgeted to visit the less popular lots. They do use "work for stay volunteer labor" to do some work at the lots, mostly trash and outhouse cleaning. These folks wear a FS uniform and drive a FS truck but their "pay" is that they can stay for free at a campground for the season.

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    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    "Generally about 50% of the fees for the fee "demonstration" program stays local."

    >That's the top level appearance.

    "Bummer, I was hoping it was higher."

    >It's actually much lower than that.

    "...parking fee revenue had effectively been offset by the budget process so that there was little or no net impact to the overall WMNF budget..."

    >Truth. Consistently, at almost all levels of Government, "user fees" are played as a shell game. The regular budget is reduced concomitantly. The net effect is no additional benefit to the resource, just more money going to headquarters.

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    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    Weather/climate cooperating, the shoulder seasons are great times to visit almost anywhere (i.e. before summer school vacations and after school starts). An annual pass, good at parks, BLM properties, NFs, monuments, etc., is a better value if you go to such places frequently. The passes are much more expensive in Canada. Lifetime passes for seniors and people with disabilities are practically free and there may be discounts for veterans (I haven't checked, I get the senior deal).

    I doubt that the increases are designed to reduce visits; I think there's much more flexibility for these comparatively modest costs. Gas/fuel prices do make a big difference. Availability and cost of accommodations, including campsites, are big factors. And dispersing traffic and visitation, both geographically and chronologically, is a good objective. Maybe deep off season price discounts could help in this regard.

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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    "Generally about 50% of the fees for the fee "demonstration" program stays local."

    >That's the top level appearance.

    "Bummer, I was hoping it was higher."

    >It's actually much lower than that.

    "...parking fee revenue had effectively been offset by the budget process so that there was little or no net impact to the overall WMNF budget..."

    >Truth. Consistently, at almost all levels of Government, "user fees" are played as a shell game. The regular budget is reduced concomitantly. The net effect is no additional benefit to the resource, just more money going to headquarters.
    I noticed a change, after the parking fee system took effect. More Rangers driving around, bothering everybody. You drive down the Kanc and pass like 5 white trucks. I'm sitting on the bed of my pick-up, a Ranger pulls in. He says "you cant sleep at a trailhead", I said, ''I know", he said, I'll be back later to check. I won't mention, what I wanted to say. Pure harassment.

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    Senior Member CaptCaper's Avatar
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    I just finished a month long trip in September of 9 National Parks 2 state parks and bunch of National Forests out West. Gobblin Valley State in Utah is awesome and is under utilized..Even in September they are packed packed then packed.. $70 isn't bad for a car full.. or what you get for that. A season pass for any park at $80 is better spent money. I believe what the article said about being over taxed.
    Actually the crowds turned me off about those parks..fighting over the first come first serve camp sites.. packed shuttles,long lines to see a Ranger at the Visitor Centers,etc. But after 3 previous trips out there I learned the tricks to taking the edge off. But still ... plenty of cool places out there without going to them. Kind of like here were everyone climbs Mt. Lafeyette.. were there are so many awesome hikes around with no hassle of parking or people with vicious dogs wearing mussles,etc. I stay away from most 4k now.. and have found so many off hikes.. with my 90 lb Golden and wife.. got the falls or the summits to ourselves so often

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    Senior Member Raven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jniehof View Post
    Generally about 50% of the fees for the fee "demonstration" program stays local. The increase of user fees is part of a strategy explicitly aimed at privatizing public lands. I'm okay with paying in. I'm not okay with privatization.
    I'm in the same place on this, although I find it disturbing that public lands are increasingly harder to access for people without disposable cash. New higher fees cut off an increasing number of citizens from access. $30-40 more here and there won't bother me personally, but like many of us here, I'm fortunate enough. I don't want to see public lands become usable by only certain classes of people, especially now knowing the increasing health benefits of time spent in nature, near trees, time exercising, etc.

    We have more than enough wealth in the US to make all public lands free and open. Some people who would benefit most are being increasingly shut out. That's a choice. Quite frankly, it's our choice.
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