Hoping to raise money to fix America’s ailing national park system, U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is scheduled to announce substantial fee increases for at least 50 national parks in early December.
The planned fee hikes - the most sweeping parks funding change in decades - have not been finalized, sources said Monday. But proposals submitted to Babbitt by individual park superintendents range from raising rates by a few dollars to a quadrupling Yosemite National Park’s $5 entrance fee to $20 per car.
Eighty percent of the new money would stay in the park that collected it. The remaining 20 percent would fund repairs at park units that do not collect fees, such as the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial and most Civil War battlefields, according to a National Park Service spokesman. Existing entrance fees would continue to flow into the federal treasury.
“We honestly feel that the public is willing to pay more if they know the money is going back into the parks,” said David Barna, a spokesman for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.
The increases are expected to affect nearly all of the nation’s “crown jewel” parks, including Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and the Everglades, according to a preliminary list.
The fee increases would take effect in April.
Barna said the fee hikes could generate at least $50 million over three years to pay for maintenance, although the exact amount won’t be known until Babbitt completes the list.
Earlier this year, Congress granted Babbitt authority to raise entrance fees under a three-year program that expires in 1999.