Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke defended his plan to double the entrance fees at National Parks, saying he needs to charge more because too many children, elderly, veterans, and disabled Americans are visiting public lands for free.
“When you give discounted or free passes to elderly, fourth graders, veterans, disabled, and you do it by the carload, there’s not a whole lot of people who actually pay at our front door,” said Zinke in testimony before the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. “So, we’re looking at ways to make sure we have more revenue in the front door of our parks themselves.”
Under Zinke’s proposal, the Park Service would charge cars a $70 entrance fee, up from the current $25 and $30 per vehicle at the country’s busiest national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Zion.
Zinke is also looking at possibly charging each individual an entrance fee rather than paying per car.
“Basically, one person with a pass, everyone in that car comes in free,” Zinke said. “Now, whether or not that’s correct, we’re looking at it.”
Active military members and disabled veterans can receive a free annual pass but Zinke told the Senate committee that he would not impose new fees on them.
The Hill adds:
Seniors used to be able to buy a lifetime pass for $10 but that was raised to $80, the same cost as an annual pass for nonseniors. Zinke called the $80-a-year pass “the greatest bargain in America,” despite bipartisan pushback who said it would hurt American families.
Simply raising the park fees will not address the $11.7 billion National Parks maintenance backlog, Zinke said. The infrastructures inside the park need renovation and restoration.
“Some of our principal parks are loved to death,” Zinke said Tuesday.
A December poll found that nearly 68 percent of Americans were less likely to visit a national park if the fees increased.