Readers react to rising national park fees

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Readers--including a former park ranger--are responding to our recent blog post on whether the National Park Service should increase the entrance fees at parks nationwide. (See our earlier posts here and here.)

Here are some of your comments:

Perhaps a reduced rate should be offered to those with a valid US driver's license. Here in Milwaukee County, there are days when county residents get in free to the county zoo or museum, just by presenting proof of county residence. This way, foreign visitors (who can probably afford it) can pay their fair share.--Christine O'Meally

As a former NPS Ranger of 15 years those who say even with the fee increases the parks are a bargain are missing the point and don't know the whole story. First, did you know that the fees you pay do not necessarily go back into the park you visited? The parks only get a percentage back, the rest goes into the general treasury. So stop thinking that these fees are supporting the parks - most of the fee is not. Second, the parks were set aside for all to enjoy, not just those who can afford it. Finally, if you really think that the parks and the National Park Service are worthy (and all polls suggest the American public does by overwhelming numbers), then urge Congress to stop moving in the direction of a "pay-as-you-go" National Park System and start supporting the parks through the appropriations process, i.e. through the taxes we all pay so ALL may enjoy our National Parks--Fred Doyle

We have a cabin near Yellowstone, and when our kids come up they want us to go with them and take our National Parks pass, otherwise they can't afford to pay to go in the park. The problem is that the National Park Service is trying to maintain too many small, minimally attended, or second tier attractions. If they would concentrate on the important parks, which for the most part are the older parks, and stop siphoning off the money from them to the less important parks, then they would become more self sustaining. Also, many of the parks are closing off extremely large areas to auto travel, making many of the features inaccessible to the handicapped and seasoned citizens and sometimes families with young children. Teddy Roosevelt said that the national parks are supposed to be for the benefit of the people of the country. If those who are less mobile could find more enjoyment in the parks, maybe they would attend more, thus bumping up revenues. The Park Service seems to think that they have to be constantly acquiring property. If they would evaluate honestly what is worth keeping, and then concentrate on making those assets the best they can be, then they will be more successful.--Jean Corey

Like everything else, the parks need maintenance, and as all costs go up, so too does the cost of maintenance. If they are to survive, they must get the needed funds, in increased taxes/fees. I truly think this is a worthwhile increase - much less than taking your family to many other entertainment places (i.e. Disney, etc.) C'mon folks - just think about it!--Clairee

There are no easy answers to what to do about our National Parks. Overall the parks have seen a decrease in visitors. Yet, in some cases on the East Coast we've seen an increase and problems with "overuse" of the National Park System. Out West and Alaska, there are more foreign visitors than citizens. The National Park Service (NPS) is conducting research with how to reach out to the "new" demographics we are witnessing in the USA....because people of African-American and Latino backgrounds traditionally don't use the parks. So because of fewer visitors and appreciation of why the parks were established,there is the concern of even less Federal Budget money to sustain them....

Personally, I put part of the blame at the feet of the concessionaires in the parks. It seems very little money they make goes back into the Parks! It goes to the consessionaire....who are NOT losing money like we are sometimes led to believe. There is also the question of "just how do we make use of the parks" we allow mechanized vehicles into the parks or do we attempt to preserve them? Should we allow more ventures such as helicopter tours of the parks...which interfere with enjoying the park from a naturalist perspective? AND who does have the "right" to leisure and recreational pursuits? Is it really for everyone? It took major legislation to make the Parks accessible to people with physical disabilities!--Stephanie Younkins

The National Parks belong to everyone. Please make them affordable to everyone including young families. Make them a priority in spending in this country.--Sue Rollins

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