NPCA, NPHA Want National Park Service To Raise Entrance Fees To Parks

A coalition led by the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Park Hospitality Association is asking National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to increase entrance fees in parks that now charge them, and to expand such fees into parks that don't have them.

Doing so, they argue, would provide the Park Service with greater revenues as the agency moves into its second century beginning in 2016.

In a letter sent to the director earlier this month, the groups urge Director Jarvis to implement proposals outlined earlier this year at a conference they organized in Washington.

Also supporting the call for higher fees are the American Hiking Society, theŽ American Recreation Coalition, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, theŽ National Tour Association, theŽ Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association, theŽ Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, theŽ Southeast Tourism Society, and the Western States Tourism Policy Council.

The proposal goes beyond simply raising or instituting entrance fees. It also asks the Park Service to consider allowing:

* Tour operators to increase their fees;

* Fees to be boosted during the high seasons;

* Daily entrance fees, as opposed to the current weekly approach, and;

* An "international visitor" package that would include a short-term entrance pass as well as "maps, services available on mobile devices and other park information and would have special souvenir value."

Under the heading of GREAT PARK EXPERIENCES & SUSTAINABLE FUNDING, the groups made the following suggestions to the director:

The National Park Service has a unique opportunity to make some important changes in its park visitor fee structure that would result in significantly increased revenue for the national park system in its next 100 years while enhancing the park visitor experience. Currently, NPS collects entrance fees, recreation use fees, transportation fees and other special fees under a variety of legal authorities, including the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004. The changes below could be done under existing authorities.

NPS should adopt a Centennial park fee program with two goals: (1) increased revenue for park operations that will enhance the National Park Service’s capacity to serve the visitor; and (2) a program that allows visitors to continue to enjoy the parks at a reasonable cost.

Some important ideas to consider include:

* A “dynamic” fee structure that (1) provides for higher fees during heavy visitation periods and reduced entrance, campground, backcountry and other user fees when parks are less visited; and (2) creates seasonal and shorter-duration passes for targeted groups, such as an international visitor pass that could include maps, services available on mobile devices and other park information and would have special souvenir value.

* Implementing individual park entrance fees at the level the National Park Service has already established for different park classifications, and modifying those fees at appropriate intervals

* Considering expanding the number of reduced fee days and free days to encourage park use by people qualifying for federal assistance programs

* Assessing alternatives to the current “carload” pricing, including charging per person fees for each adult after the first two adults in a vehicle, and consideration of charging per day fees.

* Reducing the volunteer hours required to receive a single park entrance pass, and accelerate earning of passes through volunteer efforts at parks unable to collect fees

* Reviewing park units not now collecting fees to determine whether there should be additional units with entrance and related fees for all or portions of the year, using technology to reduce collection costs and add convenience for visitors

* Increasing vital services to visitors served by tour operators to be offset by appropriate fees with adequate planning notice before implementation


Oh brilliant. Let's address the diminishing visitation to National Parks by making them even less affordable than they are now! This would be a big step backward to the days when only the wealthy few could afford to travel to the Parks. A better way to celebrate the centennial would be with a 1-year moratorium on entrance fees!

Visitation is going up, not down.

They may want to rethink the whole $10.00 for life , Senior Pass.

Maybe the senior pass could do $20; for the "locals" who don't/can't come for a whole week (and want a quick trip) = $7.00/day.

“Currently, NPS collects entrance fees, recreation use fees, transportation fees and other special fees under a variety of legal authorities, including the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004.”

Isn't that enough fees? Shouldn't the thinking be a little more creative than just raising the fees? I would rather see a bonus paid for coming in under budget, or for maintaining service but cutting costs 5%. That would be better than punishing the very people the parks were meant for.

Does anyone else see the Great American Entitlement Mentality at work in some posts here?

Does anyone else see the Great American Entitlement Mentality at work in some posts here?


"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Lee, absolutely. It isn't just for teenagers anymore.

Agreed, Lee.

WOW. Your headline just does not accurately reflect our proposal. Glad you at least included the full submission so that your readers can see that for themselves. Where is a reference to pricing designed to move visitation away from peak periods? Where is a reference to reducing fee collection costs -- now 20+% of revenues? Where is a reference to making fees fairer -- so that a family coming for an afternoon doesn't pay the same as a couple coming and staying for a week? Where is a reference to use of new technology to collect fees conveniently and efficiently at some parks which now have no fees because of too many entry sites?

But -- thanks for at least raising the opportunity to discuss the role of fees when park operating budgets are in deep trouble ... and getting worse.

The issue of finding more ways to raise fees for parks and other public lands is open to debate. For example, pricing entrance fees to match peak visitor days, ie if its a nice summer weekend, double the fee (like to many hotels do), well that's just great. Could go on and on, but I suggest that these parks belong to all of us, they should be funded as such, not nickeled to death like the proposals from NPCA. I support reasonable entrance and camping fees, all the rest of this is a very slippery slope that will lead to everything from additional parking fees. hiking fees,( already happening), etc. In fact some parks, Yosemite for one, have a whole division of employees designated to do just that, its called the Division of Business Management and Revenue Enhancement.

Of course they do. It's not as if they actually want people to visit or enjoy our national parks unless they have money. Keep poor people out because they're, well, poor, and might trash these places. Yup.

And I do agree with one of the comments that maybe the $10 lifetime pass for seniors should be reconsidered to at least a yearly pass. I've gone with my folks, and actually paid for their passes. Seemed like a tremendous deal, but I always felt like we were getting away with something when tagging along with them.

ypw, as a senior now going on 74, I have been used my 10.00 pass so many times I sometimes feel guilty about it. I agree with you, I would support a yearly pass for seniors, provided it is a reasonable fee. Being on a fixed income , and I am not complaining, I have a great pension and have been blessed with good health, but we must be careful about fees. Here in California we are looking at 50.00 campsites, that begins to hurt, and I am pretty well set for a lower middle income person.

As we pointed out in March, there are many avenues that should be explored to improve the Park Service's fiscal health, and tinkering with the senior pass is just one of them (one we support, too!).

It would seem that calling for higher fees -- whether they be higher entrance fees, per-person fees, fees in parks that don't charge entrance fees -- is a quick, easy solution in that it can be done without congressional approval. Going down the road towards better federal funding for the National Park System, in part by rooting out wasteful or unnecessary spending across the federal government, is much tougher when you need Congress to act.

Rather than simply asking for the Park Service director to raise fees, it would seem wholly appropriate to ask/pressure Congress to be more fiscally responsible.


ypw, as a senior now going on 74, I have been used my 10.00 pass so many times I sometimes feel guilty about it. I agree with you, I would support a yearly pass for seniors, provided it is a reasonable fee. Being on a fixed income , and I am not complaining, I have a great pension and have been blessed with good health, but we must be careful about fees. Here in California we are looking at 50.00 campsites, that begins to hurt, and I am pretty well set for a lower middle income person.

I was thinking maybe a $10 annual pass.

There's still a 50% federal recreation amenities discount with the pass, and I don't see why it couldn't continue. I remember going on a cave tour with my mom, and she got half off. She won't go camping with us, so we can't get her to come along to save some bucks.

We pay $80 a year for our annual parks pass. My husband laughs every time he gets to use it - he thinks its the greatest thing since sliced bread. It expired today so we have to go to Shenandoah NP to get it renewed next weekend. I'm not going to complain...


I'm with you. I see a great entitlement mentality at work here. It is the attitude of NPS and retired NPS employees advocating that the taxpaying public continue to pay additional fees to fund some retired NPS pensions. Talk about entitlement and lack of responsiveness to "customers". It is definitely embodied here. Just like the smokies where backpacking is down so they institute a fee to ensure it stays down. NPS logic is like military intelligence.

Yep, Smokiesbackpacker, those park entrance fees go directly to fund retired NPS employees' pensions. What a crock! 80% of entrance fees are retained in the park that collects the fees. The other 20% is divided among parks that cannot, for one reason or another, collect fees. I understand that you are not in favor of the new backcountry camping fee in the Smokies. That is a legitimate position. But let's not make things up to bolster your argument.


We park users and park volunteers have a right to protest increasing fees in the NPS despite what you park employees think. The National Parks belong to the people and they are fed up with a bureaucracy that cannot live within their means like everyone else in the United States. Entrance and park fees decrease park usage. That is well documented in studies. To listen to you NPS folks, you would have us think that fees are the cure all for everything. You can spout all the NPS propoganda you want but in the end, the public, aka park users and non park employees, are tired of it. Jarvis was busted when he got caught telling his folks to "make the public' feel the pain of the sequester. That is the NPS culture with which taxpayers are fed up. These groups that are dependent upon the NPS for their bread and butter do no service to the general public either by serving as propogandists for this ever growing bureaucracy. When a park Superintendent makes half of what the president of the Unites States makes, something is wrong with the system.

"Entrance and park fees decrease park usage. That is well documented in studies."

Hmmm. I would like to see those studies. From everything I read, park visitation is up year over year.

One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the quality of the people who wear the uniforms of the National Park Service -- whether they be maintenance workers, rangers, or volunteers. There is no finer bunch of folks anywhere on this dizzy old planet! Lee Dalton, retired NPS official.

Smokies, your imagination is working overtime again. I am NOT a "retired NPS official."

I will also stand firmly behind the statement I made in an earlier Traveler article.

And finally, do you REALLY think anyone will be foolish enough to take seriously a "study" done by an organization that has NO FEE in their name? That would be as silly as believing any propaganda laid out by Americans For Prosperity or other similar predatory gangs.

If you wish to continue pouting, have at it. As for me, I'll go enjoy the world without feeling that I'm entitled to receive all the services I desire while objecting to paying for them. I don't belong to the Tea Party.

Yeah Lee,

You are right again. Foolish me. I forgot to apply the NPS logic to your argument. Fees probably do not decrease visitation to parks. Thanks for clearing that up, former NPS employee but not retired NPS employee.

Smokies, that report was completed in 2007.

Here is a link to visitation since 2007:

Here is a link to any kind of visitation you may want to calculate:

I note your report argues that implementation of entrance fees causes visitation to go down, and then uses Smokey Mountain National Park to show it. Smokey Mountain National Park does not charge entrance fees. It shows that the visitation in Shenandoah went down in 2006 from 1997. Visitation was alot higher in Shenandoah in 1994 than in 1997. Why did it go down so much in 1997? In fact, in 1991 through 1999 park vistation went down almost every year. Is it possible that the fee had nothing do with declining park visitation, considering that it had been declining for years?

Your source specifically uses 1997 and 2006 as benchmark years. Did you know that visitation increased in some parks when comparing those dates? Zion, Yellowstone, and Glacier, for example.

Visitation is affected by many factors and none of the studies or commentary above have even attempted much less succeded in isolating the impact of fees. However, there is no reason to believe that the Parks would be immune from the basic laws of supply and demand. When price goes up, demand goes down. While other factors may be in play, there is little doubt that visitation would be higher without fees than it would be (all else being equal) with fees.

When prices go up demand goes down is generally true, but when other forms of recreation goes up in price the park service could follow suite and add or raise fees and still be competitive.

could follow suite and add or raise fees and still be competitive.

But less competitive than they would be if they didn't implement/raise fees. There are still plenty of free alternatives for recreation.

The reports I linked to show that, regardless of fees, sometimes park visitation goes up and sometimes it goes down. You can wish it were different all you want, but that doesn't make it true (all else being equal).

Supply and demand isn't in play when price has nothing to do with supply.

I totally agree. The choice is when costs go up to run the park; raise user fees, raise taxes, or reduce spending (or a combination). Being a little less competitive may also reduce cost?

Interesting. Yet Disneyland's attendance goes up every year. Have they cut fees lately?

Let's see, a day at Dizzyland costs only $86 for someone ages 3 to 9 and just $92 a day for anyone 10 and older.

If logic cited above was correct, wouldn't Walt's Place be closed up by now? Or is it just that some folks feel they are entitled to a free ride in our national parks?

An interesting insight into fees and demand at another park is included in a current story on the Traveler about unusually high visitation at Bryce Canyon NP during the recent holiday weekend. It notes:

"At Bryce Canyon in Utah, though the park has the smallest land area of the state’s five national parks, it consistently ranks second among these parks in annual visitation (Zion National Park leads the way)."

"Since 2008, the park has seen an increase in recreational visits of more than 32 percent."

For information sake, Bryce Canyon's entrance fee is $25 per private vehicle ($12.50 per person if entering by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, or non-commercial group.) That fee is good for seven consecutive days of visits, and includes unlimited use of the park Shuttle during its operating season.

Supply and demand isn't in play when price has nothing to do with supply.

An interesting economic theory. Obviously you never took Economics 101. Google "price elasticity of demand" and educate yourself.

wouldn't Walt's Place be closed up by now?

Nope. But if prices were higher, there definately would be fewer visitors and if they were lower, there would be more. The managers of Walt's place have done the math that optimizes the trade off between number of visitors and how much you charge. Its basic economics and managerial finance.

Maybe it says something about some Americans' demand to be constantly entertained.

I am sure that by the "dynamic" fee structure listed in the article above, the NPS is trying to account for supply and demand as ecbuck said.

the NPS is trying to account for supply and demand

Yes, that would be appropriate if the NPS's mission is to maximize revenue.

ecbuck, my mistake..."if" this is their goal. (It is one of the goals listed by the group proposing this change)

nevermind. not stooping...

I'm curious, smokiesbackpacker, how many current or former NPS employees do you think regularly post on NPT? i recognize about 4 names. You seem to believe that anyone who is not as utterly opposed to the backcountry camping fee in the Smokies as you are is either an NPS employee or a former one. As I have pointed out, I think your take on the fee is a defensible position. (Although your idea that fees go to NPS employees' annuities is laughable.) I hope you will grant the same courtesy to those who either are in favor of the fee, or, like me, have no opinion on the issue. And, as you know, I am a former NPS employee, one who, unfortunately, never got a chance to work in the Smokies. And most of the former NPS employees post under their names and do not hide behind anonymity.


Curiously enough, one of today's headlines.

By the way, market force guru's, by competitive you mean that people decide which of the various Yellowstones they will see Old Faithful in? Or which of the several competitive Denali's they will attempt to climb?

No Rick, the competitve forces will have them decide if the go to Yellowstone, Denali, Disney World or just go to a free National Forest or beach.

As to competitive forces at work in relation to park visits, I believe Rick B's point (and perhaps dahkota's in a earlier post) was that there are numerous unique experiences that can only be enjoyed in a single park, whether it be watching an eruption of Old Faithful, or a sunset from Pima Point at Grand Canyon, or walking through the house where Lincoln once lived. In those cases, there is no competition.

Thank you, Jim. My point exactly.


This article is about fees in the parks in general and I have made no statements whatsovever about the Smokies fee here. Believe it or not, there are those of us regular taxpayers who feel as if we shouldn't be double taxed to use public lands. I realize that flies in the face of all those who worked for the NPS. The culture of how the NPS protects its own is embodied in the Case of the Indian Trader quite well. Am I saying that you are part of that culture? No. Do I think the NPS is infested by a culture of deceit, manipulation and disregard of public sentiment? Absolutley. This fee issue throughout the system is clear evidence of that fact. And yes, it is apparent that I am arguing with quite a few NPS people of which you are admittedly one. But thanks for letting me have my opinion. That is quite gracious.

Rick, i am well away that was your point, but it is totally irrelevant. There are thousands of "unique" places, experiences, things to own. To suggest that everyone will pay anything for them just because they are unique is ridicules. The laws of supply and demand hold whether the supply is one or a million. Like dakota, you need to do a little investigation into the price elasticity of demand.

Which brings me to Lees comment "it says something about some Americans' demand to be constantly entertained."

I think instead this whole thread says something about the failure of the public school system which teaches how to but on a condom but fails to address the subjects of basic economics and finance. That ignorance has put this country into the financial mess it is and has necessitated the cuts in NPS funding that no one here likes.

I'm puzzled. All of us who post comments here are "regular taxpayers," aren't we? Every adult in the United States pays taxes of some sort. Most of us pay income taxes - or did so while in our working years if not in retirement. Is that somehow supposed to make us entitled to use parks and forests and other public places free of charge?

If the Tea Party and Paul Ryan are correct, then aren't those who are enjoying free use of those places actually among the "parasites" who are so hated by those who shout that everyone should be taking "personal responsibility" for ourselves and not sucking up dollars from other taxpayers who do not, for whatever reason, use those parks or forests? (Or, for that matter, health care, or Social Security, or other current hot-button "entitlements?")

Am I, because I have a Golden Age Pass, also a parasite? Isn't that the entire thrust of some political persuasions or anti-taxation groups? If those people are correct, don't we ALL have a "responsibility" to pay for whatever we use? How can we "cut taxes" without asking everyone to pitch in to maintain our parks, roads, sewers, bridges, and other infrastructure? If we are going to reduce taxes without eliminating the things that make our civilization possible, won't that mean going to charging tolls for all those who drive a highway or flush a toilet?

I guess what I'm clumsily trying to point out is that the challenges facing all of us are much more complex than most of us realize. How do we find a workable balance between responsibility and entitlements? And maybe right there is the real problem. Can it be that too many of us want what I want, how I want it, and are simply unable or unwilling to consider anything or anyone beyond ME?

Is selfishness our new reigning national value?

Most of us pay income taxes

No. 47% of those that file don't pay and of course there are 10s of million that don't file.

Is selfishness our new reigning national value?

Not new just ever increasing since the days of Franklin Roosevelt.

Oh, and of course, the users do pay for the roads and bridges through taxes on gas and for flushing their toilets with water and sewer charges.

Let's see 100 - 47 = 53% so, yes, most of us pay income taxes. And among those who don't are some of our biggest corporations and those with enough political clout to write tax codes that exempt large parts of their incomes.

You used that awful word taxes in your recent post, and thus proved my point.

And is it our public schools that set our national budgets or is it 540 something Congresscritters who have been purchased by big money? Besides, without condoms, there might be a lot more of those awful 47 percenters. But we digress here.

May I suggest a great book for you to read? Who Stole the American Dream by Hedrick Smith. Y'might learn something.