Yellowstone among 17 popular parks raising entry fees

Dennis Lenzendorf greets an early visitor during the first day the East Gate to Yellowstone Park was open for the 2012 summer season. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate)

 

Yellowstone National Park will be one of 17 popular parks raising entry fees by $5 starting June 1 to $35 per vehicle. The move by Interior Department follows an earlier proposal that would have more than doubled entry fees to pay $70 per vehicle for visitors at Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and other major parks.

That plan by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to steeply hike visitor fees was widely criticized by lawmakers and governors of both parties. The $5 fee hike, also taking effect in Grand Teton National Park, will also be imposed in other western parks, including  Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mount Rainier, and Rocky Mountain parks, among others.

National Park Service officials said the increased entrance fees remains would  help ensure a quality experience for all visitors. In Yellowstone, 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park and are devoted to spending that supports the visitor. The remaining 20 percent of entry fee income is shared with other Park Service properties. 

“Yellowstone uses revenues from entrance fees collected to improve visitor facilities,” Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a statement released by the park’s public affairs office. “Visitors benefit when park roads, trails, and boardwalks are maintained and provide access to the park’s treasures.”  

National parks nationwide have experienced record-breaking visitation, with more than 1.5 billion visitors in the last five years. Throughout the country, the combination of aging infrastructure and increased visitation affects park roads, bridges, buildings, campgrounds, water systems, bathrooms, and other facilities. Maintenance deferred on these facilities amounts to an $11.6 billion nationwide backlog. 

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016.  The Park Service said it expects to raise an additional $60 million annually from the increased fees. 

Yellowstone National Park has had an entrance fee since 1916. The current rate of $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle has been in effect since 2015. The park is one of 117 in the National Park System that charges an entrance fee. The remaining 300 sites are free to enter. 

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have not yet determined how this new fee structure will affect the combined parks’ seven-day entrance pass.

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