Update, November 21: The proposed fee hike for national parks, including Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, would only address less than 1 percent of the maintenance backlog it’s designed to help close, the Seattle Times reports. Meanwhile, the federal government is proposing cutting the parks budget by $200 million.
United States Senator Maria Cantwell, who represents Washington, has come out against the hikes, as well as local (and national) climbing legend Jim Whittaker. Whittaker said at a press conference Monday, “I don’t want to walk the trails with just the 1 percenters. I want to be with everyone … We need nature. Don’t price anyone out of the wilderness.”
“These lands, these parks provide an opportunity for healing for those most vulnerable among us,” said Cantwell at the same conference.
The public comment period on the proposed fee changes ends later this week, on November 24.
Original article, October 25:
The National Parks Service (NPS) has proposed fee hikes for national parks that could triple the price of admission at 17 “highly visited” parks—including Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks.
Currently, a one-time visit to the park costs $25 per vehicle or $10 per person. The proposal would add peak season pricing at $70 per vehicle or $30 per person. The proposed peak season for the Olympics would be May through September 2018; for Mount Rainier, June through October.
Fees would stay largely the same during off-peak, although the price of an annual pass would jump from $50 to $75. The public comment period on the proposal opened Tuesday and closes on November 24.
NPS says the fee hikes are necessary to complete a $12 billion maintenance backlog. The proposal, according to NPS estimates, would raise an extra $70 million per year.
“We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids' grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in a statement. “Shoring up our parks' aging infrastructure will do that.”
Speaking with the Seattle Times, National Parks Conservation Association regional director Rob Smith argued there are other ways to address the maintenance backlog that aren’t cost-prohibitive: “For many people, this shuts off access at a time when we want to get people outdoors.”
Smith argued that the National Park Legacy Act, which would create a backlog fund, is a better option to address the necessary park maintenance.
Also speaking with the Times, Joe Camacho of Latino Outdoors said the fee hikes would be “a great way to decrease diversity outdoors.”
If implemented, the fees would go into effect in less than a year: May 2018 for Olympic National Park and July for Mount Rainier.