Outdoor Recreation Idea of the Day, December 9, 2010

Look at Park Fees to Align Fees with Goals

December 9, 2010 (Washington, DC) - America's National Parks are generally a bargain -- a maximum of $25 per carload of people for a 7-day period, or $80 for a carload every day at every park for a year -- or even better, $10 for a lifetime once you are 62, including a companion! In some parks, it gets even cheaper. They just don't collect entrance fees except during "business hours," or not during off-season periods.

Yet fee income is more and more important to parks for operations and maintenance and key visitor services. It is time for the National Park Service and other federal agencies to develop new fee strategies which consider:

1) Making current entrance fees single day fees, with additional days at an additional -- discounted -- cost.
2) Encouraging visitation during non-peak periods by lowering entrance fees mid-week and during off-season periods (officially, not by failing to staff entrance stations).
3) Establishing an automated fee collection service or using the same technology used by highways and turnpike agencies to collect the fees.
4) Offering discounted or free access selectively to attract demographics who statistically do not derive benefits from our parks in place of the current fee free weekend programs, which is generally targeted.
5) Let visitors earn a free return pass by volunteering during their stay.
6) Allow groups of friends to make bulk buys of entrance fees and then use them as premiums for all those making contributions of $50 or more to those organizations.

Idea of the Day is inspired by the President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative to connect Americans to the outdoors and its IdeaJam blog. ARC’s submissions to the blog can be found if you click here. Additional ideas that have been submitted to IdeaJam can be found in our September 2010 newsletter, which is here.