WASHINGTON, D.C. - Faced with thousands of critical comments, the National Park Service is scrapping a proposal to aggressively hike park entrance fees.
Per-car prices at Glacier, Yellowstone and other National Parks will increase by $5 this summer, without the earlier proposal to charge a premium during the busy summer months.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had proposed huge fee hikes last year, saying the National Parks needed a more solid source of revenue to catch up on an $11 billion backlog on improvement and maintenance projects. The original proposal would have increased fees to as much as $70 per car during the peak travel months at Glacier and the other parks with the most traffic, a jump of more than 30-percent.
But tens of thousands of people wrote to the Park Service, saying the move was unfair, especially to lower income families and would devastate the economy in places like Columbia Falls, West and East Glacier, where businesses survive on the tourism economy.
Instead, the Park Service will spread a more modest increase out across 117 parks, instead of charging more at the 17 most-visited parks like Glacier and Yellowstone.
Effective on June 1, the 7-day car pass that most Glacier and Yellowstone visitors use will increase from $30 to $35 dollars, with per person charges and motorcycles going up $5. If you are local, and want to save $10 on an annual pass, you should buy it in the next few weeks. Lifetime senior passes will stay at $80.
80 percent of the funds will stay in the parks where the money is collected for local projects.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who had earlier told Congress too many people are getting through park gates for "free” is thanking people for their input to develop what he calls a “balanced plan.”
Senator Steve Daines, who is backing legislation to use some dollars from federal energy leases to pay for park maintenance, is praising the Park Service decision. He says making parks “more costly for American families” through entrance fees wouldn’t have solved the problem alone.