National park fee increase could price out many visitors

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The Trump administration, which is looking to slash the National Park Service's budget by almost 13 percent and eliminate 1,200 full-time staff, proposed Tuesday to drastically hike entrance fees at 17 of America's most popular national parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite and Glacier.

Under the proposal, peak-season entrance fees would be established at 17 national parks. That placed Acadia eighth in total visitors among the national parks behind such other big-name locations as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Acadia now charges $25 for a weekly pass and $50 for its annual entrance pass for those vehicles.

The NPS says if implemented, the proposal could increase national park revenue by $70 a year - a 34 percent increase over what was collected last year, according to the news release. A 30-day public comment period will run from October 24 to November 23 on a park service website. Visitors learn about the pursuit of gold, but the ones we spoke with Wednesday don't see anything golden about paying more for the country's most popular parks.

Many are condemning the proposal, saying that it's likely to backfire and would result in lower revenue for the parks, who are already contending with a reduced budget.

National Park visitors looking to head to Yosemite or the Grand Canyon during peak season will have to dig deep into their pockets as the park service considers drastically raising its prices.

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"Targeted fee increases at some of our most visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the awesome destinations they are visiting", said Zinke, in a prepared statement.

"We are always open to peoples' ideas on how we can take care of the resources - the infrastructure as well as the parks themselves - to better serve the visitors", Olson said.

But she and Kaine said increasing entrance fees is not the way to address the issue. In fact, since fees began going up in 2015, park attendance has been on the rise, setting new records at several parks around the country. But the Trump administration proposed cutting the fiscal year 2018 budget at the Department of the Interior, which includes the park service, by roughly 12 percent.

Peter Pereira of Centennial took this photo on September 17, 2012, of a "Bull Elk bugling at Rocky Mountain National Park".

In fact, in 2016 NPS had a record-breaking 331 million visits, almost eight per cent more than the year before.

"We should not increase fees to such a degree as to make these places - protected for all Americans to experience - unaffordable for some families to visit", Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement. "The other 20% will be spent on projects in other national parks".