Act Now to Shape NPS Policy on Peak Season Fees and More

Act Now to Shape NPS Policy on Peak Season Fees and More

Time is running out to submit comments on the proposed peak period fee initiative at 17 popular national parks.

The National Park Service (NPS) has proposed increasing “peak season” fees at 17 national parks starting in 2018 to help combat the growing maintenance backlog, which currently amounts to almost $12 billion. “Peak season” would be defined as each park’s busiest contiguous five-month period. Entrance fees for seven days would rise to $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot.

The proposed increases would take place at Acadia, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion National Parks.

The American Recreation Coalition, National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) and Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR) support the concept of increasing peak season entrance fees, but believe that the current proposal requires important modifications and should be implemented in conjunction with other fee program modifications. Read NPHA’s full comments, ORIR’s draft comments and ORIR’s fee improvement recommendations here. We urge you to submit comments and incorporate some or all of these suggestions:

  • We commend the agency for addressing the serious challenge of a very large backlog in maintenance. Recent estimates place the backlog at greater than $11 billion. The backlog threatens the quality of visitor experiences – and in some instances, visitor safety. This backlog has grown significantly under several Presidents and even during the celebration of the Centennial of the National Park Service (NPS). Action is needed. We support additional, sustainable funding for national parks.
  • We believe that fees are an important component of sound fiscal operations of our parks, and generally support fees ranging from entrance fees to camping fees and more which are largely retained for use in funding park operations and maintenance. We further believe that current fees can be increased with public support, and that these increases can be done without denying access to park experiences on economic grounds.
  • NPS has seen record visitation levels in recent years, with more than 330 million visitors in 2017 so far. However, these increases are largely occurring at a few, well-known parks while others - like Mammoth Cave National Park - have experienced significant decreases. 1987 visitation was reported by 303 units. Total visitation to those same 303 units in 2015 actually dropped by almost one million visits. Variable pricing is a proven tool used by the travel and tourism communities to influence demand. Effectively used, pricing can persuade voluntary shifts of visitation within the national park system to less popular dates and locations.
  • Fees need to be conveniently and efficiently collected. Pilot programs testing electronic fee collection are already underway at several NPS sites, and the response is extremely positive. Other innovations, including increased fees for foreign visitation, implementing fees at additional sites, 24/7 fee collection, fees that vary by length of stay and more could bring in additional revenue without discouraging visitation. NPHA members are willing to be active in the NPS fee program, for example offering and selling passes through their reservation processes and in their gateway location operations.
  • Require that parks allowed to charge “peak season” surcharges consult with concessioners and gateway communities to adjust dates for the surcharge and other details, including the amount of the increases. Eliminate the idea that the peak fee season should be a standard five-month period.
  • Initiate a national discussion regarding use of seasonal pricing strategies, methods to expand fee collection beyond the current 119 units and the relationship between one-time entrance fees and annual passes.
  • Delay use of the peak season fees at Shenandoah National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and other units where a substantial portion of visitation is short-duration use and major fee hikes are most likely to encounter visitor resistance.
  • The comment period closes Friday, December 22 at 11:59pm Mountain Time. Comments can be submitted through NPS’ website, here. Written comments can be sent to: National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346, Washington, DC 20240.

    NPS – along with the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – is authorized to collect fees under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). Eighty percent of fees collected under FLREA remain at the collecting site. For more information on FLREA, click here.