A Plan for Parks

April 27, 2018
NATURE WALK Tourists take in views of Half Dome, a rock formation in Yosemite National Park, in California.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The National Park Service (NPS) has backed down from a controversial plan. It decided against a steep rise in admission prices at 17 popular national parks. Instead, it will raise fees by $5 at 117 parks.

In November, the NPS said it would hike fees at several parks. These include the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. Under the plan, vehicles would have been charged $70 to enter. That's up from $30. Fees for pedestrians and bicyclists would have jumped from $15 to $30.

The proposal was unpopular. Lawmakers from both parties opposed it. They said the higher fees would stop Americans from visiting public lands. The U.S. Department of the Interior oversees the NPS. It invited feedback on the policy on its website. More than 100,000 people left comments. Most opposed the fees.

"National Parks are our nation's legacy," read one comment. "If you jack up the entrance fees to $70, only wealthy people can afford to visit."

Ryan Zinke is U.S. Interior Secretary. He says fee increases are important. National parks need $11.6 billion in maintenance and repairs. But after the backlash, the NPS decided to raise money with small increases at many parks. The rest of the nation's 417 national parks, historic sites, and monuments will remain free. (Entry is always free for kids 15 and under.)

"I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard," Zinke said in a statement.

The NPS says the new fees will raise $60 million a year. They take effect June 1.