A visit to a National Park may soon cost you as much as an amusement park in some areas. The National Park Service recently proposed an increase in entrance fees for 17 national parks in an effort to fund upgrades to outdated infrastructure. During peak season from May to September, admission fees into the Grand Canyon could cost $70 per vehicle and $50 per motorcycle, on foot/bikes $30. That’s almost double the current rate. The price hike comes as National Parks see an upswing in popularity and a backlog of maintenance issues. For the third year in a row, the parks set a record for recreational visits, welcoming nearly 331 million people in 2016.
Some groups question whether a fee increase is the best way to fund these projects. The national park system has historically been underfunded and this new proposal attempts to pass the cost from congress to the park attendee.
The price increase could result in barring low-income families from visiting their country’s national parks. At worse it could result in a drop in attendance in the following year if this proposal goes forward, as an increase in fees will discourage many families who can’t afford the price hike. Less families means less childhoods impacted by visits. If people are priced out of National Parks in their childhood, why would they vote in the future to protect them?
This price shift could have other ripple effect. According to one report by NPR, visitors to the parks are disproportionately non-Hispanic Whites. African Americans represent only around 7% of park visitors nationwide. Jon Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, is aware of this issue. “We know that visitation does not reflect the diversity of the nation… And that’s a concern.” A concern for long term funding and future conservation efforts. Park administrators across the country echo these concerns. Darla Sidles, Saguaro National Park’s superintendent spoke with NPR about her concerns. “Tucson is about 44 percent Hispanic or Latino. Of the park’s roughly 650,000 annual visitors, less than 2 percent self-identify as Hispanic. “If we’re not being relevant to almost half of the population, then 30, 40, 50 years from now, the park isn’t going to matter to them,” Sidles says.
Pick up an annual pass for 2018 to more than 2000 federal recreation sites here for just $80: https://www.recreation.gov/marketing.do?goto=acm/faqs/America_the_Beautiful___The_National_Parks_and_Federal_Recreational_Lands_Pass_Series.htm