U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Friday fought against the Department of Interior's recent decision to almost triple user fees at 17 national parks and offered alternative solutions to the challenge of how to pay for a large maintenance backlog in the park system.
The National Park Service is floating a steep increase in entrance fees at 17 of its most popular parks, mostly in the West, to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects.
The increases are for the five most heavily visited months of the year.
A public comment period for the proposal is open until November 23 at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates.
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"Like most other parks, Acadia has felt the strain of the maintenance backlog, in part due to this sustained visitation", the senators wrote. Foreign visitors are not paying taxes that support the parks, as Americans are. Written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240. Without a visitor permit for non-U.S. residents to enter any national park, we taxpayers are left to pay for the parks' upkeep.
If implemented, estimates suggest the peak-season price structure could increase national park revenue by $70 million per year, a 34 percent increase over the $200 million collected in the past year. Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, 80 percent of an entrance fee remains in the park where it is collected. "Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the fantastic destinations they are visiting".
Under the proposal, peak-season entrance fees would be established at 17 national parks. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.
Entrance fees are not charged to visitors under 16 years of age or holders of Senior, Military, Access, Volunteer, or Every Kid in a Park passes. The fees will also cover the administrative costs of receiving, reviewing and processing CUA applications and required reports.
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