In case you missed the news, Secretary Zinke and the Department of Interior WILL NOT be upping entrance fees to $70 per visit to our National Parks. With hundreds of thousands of comments, 99% of which were against the ridiculous fee increase, Interior backed away from the proposal. While we should celebrate the fact that our voices mattered in this, I regret to let you know that I am the bearer of bad news.
Olympic National Park announced today that the Department of Interior will modify its entrance fees to Olympic beginning June 1, 2018. Luckily, the spike to Olympic won’t be the $70 entrance fee. However, the raise in entrance fee costs is pretty much an annual event. With a quick look back through articles I have written, the fees were increased in 2015 for the same reasons.
This year’s increase is said to be done in order to provide additional funding for infrastructure and maintenance needs that enhance the visitor experience. With the current $11-billion backlog facing Olympic and other National Parks around the nation, this fee increase will be a drop in Lake Quinault. Maybe if National Parks would actually stop having their budget get cut every year, their wouldn’t be such a backlog. But I digress.
Starting June 1, 2018 the park entrance fee will be $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle. An annual park pass will cost $55.
The NPS last October proposed a plan to adopt seasonal pricing at Olympic National Park and 16 other national parks to raise additional revenue for infrastructure and maintenance needs. The fee structure announced today addresses many concerns and ideas provided by the public on how best to address fee revenue for parks.
Revenue from entrance fees remains in the National Park Service and helps ensure a quality experience for all who visit. Here in Olympic National Park, 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park and are devoted to spending that supports the visitor. We share the other 20 percent of entry fee income with other national parks for their projects.
“Entrance fees are a critical source of revenue for the park in fulfilling our commitment to providing a quality experience for all visitors. The rehabilitation of our main park visitor center was funded largely through entrance fees. We look forward to addressing deferred maintenance projects including aging wastewater treatment systems with the additional revenue.”
Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum, apparently towing the standard lines about the need for increasing fees over fully funded budgets.
The additional revenue from entrance fees at Olympic National Park are said to fund projects such as the replacement of the Log Cabin and Barnes Point wastewater treatment plants at Lake Crescent, Kalaloch water system improvements, rehabilitation of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and installation of new interpretive exhibits, road improvements to reduce congestion at Heart O’ the Hills entrance station on Hurricane Ridge Road, and improvements to comfort stations and campsites in campgrounds across the park. We shall see…
Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million. This is fucking pathetic. The fee increase will raise $60 million a year, when the backlog amount is over $11 billion. Raising entrance fees is not the answer. Give the National Park Service a full budget for a decade. Increase infrastructure outside the park, and encourage public/private partnerships like sponsoring visitor centers, maps
Fun fact! Olympic National Park has had an entrance fee since 1987. Before that, it was free. However, the budget for the National Park Service was much higher, percentage wise, so the need for charging wasn’t there. The current rate of $25 per vehicle has been in effect since 2015. Olympic National 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. If you haven’t picked this up, we have a great article that should convince you to do so immediately. If you love our public lands, this is the best deal out there.
Discover a Hike a Week through Doug Scott’s Olympic National Park Area Guidebook