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Environment

More Than 100,000 People Submit Comments On Proposed Nat’l Park Fee Increases

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Matt Bloom
Bruce Davies, 57, drives the car he uses to give local history tours in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. He says a entrance fee hike would likely put him out of business next year.

The proposal to raise entrance fees at 17 national parks is “horrendous” and “hugely stupid.”

Those are just two of the tens of thousands of comments recorded by the National Park Service in response to its recent idea to hike one-time entrance fees from $20 or $30 to $70.

“This is NOT Disneyland,” one Grand Junction resident wrote. “I know many families who would not be able to afford taking their kids to more than one park at this increase.”

Of the 109,111 comments submitted last year and made available to the public this month, 315 mentioned Colorado or Rocky Mountain National Park. The names of the commenters and other identifying information were not included.

Not all comments were against the proposal.

“I think that the fees for Rocky Mountain National Park should be raised to $70 per week for non-Colorado residents, and lowered or stay the same for Colorado residents,” one comment in favor of the increase read. “We who live here pay for infrastructure, road maintenance around the park;  we deal with increased traffic and congestion outside of the park.”

Other comments focused on how an increase could be beneficial.

“I support the fee increases only because the annual pass price remains the same,” one comment read. “This maintains an affordable option for local visitors to return again and again to their nearest national park. I also am only supporting this increase because the money is going to deferred maintenance, however I would like to say that I prefer the maintenance emphasis be on trails, not roads.”

In October, the NPS announced it would consider raising entrance fees during parks’ peak seasons to help chip away at an $11 billion maintenance backlog. The proposal suggests raising Rocky’s fees to $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. It also calls for increasing the fees for commercial tour operators.

“[The fee increase proposal] is really to enhance the visit,” said Kathy Kupper, a NPS spokeswoman. “So that when people do make the effort to go to Rocky, the roads are good, the facilities are good and hopefully we encourage them to come back time and time again.”

The term “peak season” refers to a park’s busiest contiguous five-months in a given year. For Rocky, that’s June 1-Oct. 31.

As a part of its decision on whether to move forward with the proposal, the NPS in October opened a public comment portal on its website. The deadline for submitting a comment has since passed.

When more than 65,000 public comments poured in, the NPS extended its comment period by 30 days to give park-goers and members of Congress time to consider the price jump.

After extending the public comment period, an additional 45,000 submissions came in.

Kupper said the NPS will consider every comment submitted before issuing a decision on the fee hike proposal, which could come as soon as mid-to-late February.

 

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