Just a reminder that you have only 10 days left to submit your comments to the Park Service on this proposed fee increase. The last day is November 23. I am opposed to the fee increase and have submitted comments to that effect (see below). The cynic will say that this is a political decision and public opposition will not change it. But public outcry does have an affect in the long run. It bolsters those congressional representatives who are opposed. And administrations also change regularly. I also sent copies of my comments to my Senators and Congresswoman (you can easily find their web forms to submit letters just searching in your web browser), again, to build the case that our parks need continued general tax support rather than turning them into playgrounds for the rich.
Here is the national park website again where you can submit comments: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentFor ... ntID=83652
Here are the comments I submitted:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am commenting on the proposal to raise entrance fees at 17 of the most popular national parks during prime season.
I am a strong supporter of the national parks and a frequent visitor to parks all over the nation. I strongly support increased revenues for the National Park Service, but I believe that funding for parks should come from general taxes, as they are a heritage for all. I am opposed to this proposal to make substantial fee increases at our most iconic parks during the prime season when families generally are able to visit. The increased fee would not be a problem for me, personally, but I believe that it will pose a significant barrier to low income families. It is also a drastic increase - two or three times the current rates, all at once - which makes it more likely to deter visitors.
The parks belong to the entire nation, not just the rich. Increasing the entrance fee to $70 per car may very well deter many of our low income families from visiting. For example, there are many cases where low income families live near the parks, such as the farm towns of the California central valley who are only a couple of hours drive from Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Park - all in your list for planned fee increases. Many of these families cannot afford to stay overnight in the parks but would consider making a long day trip to visit. For such a trip, the only extra expenses are gasoline and entrance fees. Adding $40 to the entrance fee could well mean a 50% increase in the total trip cost and the decision to not visit the park. This is self-defeating in the long run. If all the nation cannot visit the parks, why should they support their continued maintenance?
When I was a child, my family was working class. Because my parents had many children, the only way we could afford to travel anywhere was to pile into the family station wagon and go camping. My early family camping trips to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks revealed this wondrous world of nature to me, and made me a life-long admirer and supporter of our national parks. It is quite likely that my family would never have visited those parks if the entrance fee had been $70 per car!
Please do not implement this proposal unless you can devise a method to allow low-income families to pay a lower rate. Otherwise you are disenfranchising them from their American heritage.
I suggest an alternative: raise the rates for organized tours only. I have seen more and more of these organized tours arrive in our national parks in big buses that discharge 30 to 50 passengers at once. Although the buses reduce traffic compared to private cars, their high capacity does create peak loads that stress infrastructure. Essentially, these tour operators are using our common heritage to generate their private profits. Furthermore. the entrance fees to the parks are only a small portion of the tour costs and the tour participants could easily afford an increase in their overall tour price to support the parks. This is especially true for the increasing numbers of foreign tourists from around the world who are taking national park tours.
Why should foreign tourists who have paid nothing in taxes to create and maintain the parks be allowed to enter at the same price as Americans? Other countries recognize that their own citizens have a greater right to the use of the parks than foreign tourists. For example, I just returned last spring from a week-long tour of the Galapagos Islands National Park in Ecuador. That park charges an entrance fee of $100 per person for foreigners, but only $6 per person for Ecuadoran citizens. In fact, that $100 was less than 2% of my entire trip cost, and I, and the other thousands of tourists, could easily afford to pay twice or three times that amount to the parks. But if I were an Ecuadoran citizen, paying $100 per person to visit the Galapagos Islands would probably deter me.
So, my solution to raise more revenue for the parks is to charge more to foreign tourists. The easiest way to do that is to charge more to organized tour groups. Organized groups of citizens can also afford to pay more. Average families, particularly low-income families, should not be priced out of the parks by a high general entrance fee!