Snowmobiling at Grand Teton, touring the Everglades or visiting Yosemite’s majestic valley will be more expensive in 1997 as higher entrance charges kick in at scores of national parks. Some fees will more than double.
The National Park Service hopes to have the fee increases at 100 parks, monuments and recreational areas in place by May. But at some of the larger parks that attract winter crowds, the increases will come with the new year. At Grand Teton and Yellowstone - where entrance fees hadn’t been changed for eight decades - the price doubled to $20 a carload just before Christmas.
The National Park Service must use the additional revenue for park improvements and at least 80 percent of the money must be used at the site where it is collected.
“As long as the extra money stays in the park, people really don’t mind paying the extra fee,” said Marsha Karle, a spokeswoman at Yellowstone. But she acknowledged that because the fees have been increased suddenly, “some people are not prepared for it.”
Fee hikes at 47 parks were announced in November. Another 53 sites will be added probably in February, said David Barna, a National Park Service spokesman.
“The intent is not to double fees only at the big parks but to cut across (the park system) to historic sites and urban areas as well,” he said.
The National Park Service also will double the cost of the annual Golden Eagle pass to $50 beginning Wednesday with the new year. The pass allows unlimited access to national parks and other federal recreation areas for a year.
The park system has faced a financial crunch for years, resulting in deterioration of everything from recreation centers to trails. The Interior Department expects the new fees to raise $30 million to $50 million over the next three years.
Increases in entrance prices, recreational fees and user fees were approved by Congress on a threeyear experimental basis, but they are likely to become permanent as lawmakers struggle to meet the park system’s needs. Last year, about 270 million people visited federal parks and recreational areas.
At the most popular parks - Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Grand Teton - entrance fees will go from $10 to $20 a carload and annual passes will rise from $15 to $40. Entry fees at many other parks will range from $2 to $5 for individuals to $10 for a carload, Barna said.
Visitors also will begin to pay for a variety of services ranging from guided river tours at Redwood National Park in California to nature lectures at Acadia National Park in Maine to wedding receptions at Fort Washington overlooking the Potomac River outside the nation’s capital.
Large group picnics and family reunions - popular activities in Washington, D.C., area parks - will cost $50 to $300 for a site, while a wedding at 130-year-old Fort Washington will cost $150. Previously, such activities had been free.
At the Redwoods park, a seven-hour canoe trip with two rangers as guides will cost $20 a person. Snowmobiling at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado will cost $5 for an individual and $10 for a family, while a trip to Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay will cost $2 a person - all previously free.
Two congressmen from districts near Yosemite - Republican George Radanovich and Democrat Gary Condit - have complained to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt that the higher fees are “clearly exorbitant” and should be rolled back.
xxxx HIKES Increases in entrance prices, recreational fees and user fees were approved by Congress on a three-year experimental basis, but they are likely to become permanent as lawmakers struggle to meet the park system’s needs.
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