The Trump administration, specifically Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has hatched a proposal to drastically increase national park entrance fees in the 17 parks that produce the most revenue. The plan consists of raising day-use entry fees as followed: $70 for noncommercial vehicles, $50 for motorcycles, and $30 for pedestrians or visitors on foot. In comparison with the Grand Canyon’s current fees ($30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, $15 for visitors on foot/bike), these numbers double for vehicles and increase for other forms of transportation. The annual pass would remain at a flat rate of $80. A detailed fact sheet and current and proposed fee rates spreadsheet can be found on the National Park Service website.
Changes to entrance fees can start as soon as Jan. 1 for Joshua Tree National Park, May 1 for 12 other parks, and June 1 for the last four parks. The dates were chosen by what the park’s “peak time” is, and the proposed fee change would last for five months of the peak period. For example, the Canyonlands National Park entrance fee would be increased from May 1 to Sept. 30. The 17 parks susceptible to entrance fee changes include Acadia National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Zion National Park.
The revenue that the park is expected to gain—if the proposal passes—will jump from $199.9 million (2016) to $268.5 million within the fiscal year. The extra $68.6 million will go directly to help the “park infrastructure,” which means addressing maintenance issues for things like roads, campgrounds, bridges, waterlines, bathrooms, etc. The National Park Service stated that 80 percent of money will remain in the park that it is collected in, while the other 20 percent will help fund other National Park projects.
With this proposed entrance fee increase, the administration is making a statement on who the parks are for. Not only will the parks become whiter (only 22 percent of the 274.85 million visitors in 2009 were minorities), but the parks will become exclusive to only those who can afford them, denying hundreds of working class families the ability to experience what supposedly is their nation’s treasures. The most recent data concerning the percentage of minorities that attend National Parks is circa 2009; the parks have not been tracking or compiling reports on the number of minority visitors since then. The National Parks Services are trying to make their parks more inclusive with their Centennial Campaign, which quotes Theodore Roosevelt on their homepage: “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” But with this proposal, they are making a statement and reducing access to the “most glorious heritage a people ever received.”
This proposition makes an already inaccessible activity increasingly less accessible for minorities and low-income families. NPS is encouraging public comment on the matter. The public can comment on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website: parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates.