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Sun Runner: Nearly tripling national park entry fees not in the parks’ or the public’s best interest

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sbEditorial by Steve Brown | Publisher-The Sun Runner | Condensed  

Shortly after increasing the price of a lifetime Senior Pass to our national parks by a factor of eight, the National Park Service is now proposing dramatic entry fee increases for the 17 national parks with the highest levels of visitation.

We’re all for supporting our parks and guaranteeing they are around for our grandchildren – and their grandchildren – to enjoy and appreciate. But while the DOI estimates the new price increases could increase national park revenue by $70 million per year – a 34 percent increase over the $200 million in fees collected in Fiscal Year 2016, that may be based upon faulty logic, a logic that doesn’t think tripling fees will impact visitation numbers.

On another level, the fee increases are economically regressive. They deny national park access to those who need it most – the poor and working class. The wealthy won’t be significantly impacted by any of the proposed fee increases, nor the jump in the gas tax and vehicle licensing. But working class families, those who benefit from having access for inexpensive outings at our national parks will have to make hard choices, and will see their access to these parks denied during the best parts of the year to visit them.

This creates another, less obvious, negative impact – it strains the connection between the American public and their public lands.  If the goal of the fee increase is to guarantee the parks and their infrastructure survive for future generations of Americans to enjoy, money can only be part of the equation.  If many, or most, Americans feel they can no longer access the national parks they love, how will that impact their connection with, and their support for, those parks?  Sure, the Grand Canyon is an awesome spectacle, but if you can’t afford to take your kids there, does it matter if they do uranium mining around the park?  Or fracking and drilling around other parks?  If you no longer go to the parks, will your children be motivated to save them when Congress decides to transfer them to state and local control, opening them up for sale or lease for natural resource extraction and development?

Here in California, when trick-or-treaters go out on Halloween they may get the usual treats, but the next morning, a not so sweet trick goes into effect on the first of November – a 12 cent or higher increase in the price of a gallon of gas.  Licensing fees will also increase.

 With most of Joshua Tree National Park’s visitation originating from southern California, increased gas and vehicle licensing fees, coupled with increased park entry fees, will almost certainly result in significant reductions in park visitorship.  No doubt, that would be popular with the park’s administration, as the hefty increases in annual visitation we’ve seen over the past several years have been difficult to address and there has been a toll, not only on the park itself, but on those living near it.

 That said, the local economy of the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities has benefited greatly from the increase in visitation to nearly three million annual visitors.  Should the number of visitors decrease significantly, it will, no doubt, have a direct impact upon the hospitality industry here, as well as on the Airbnb economy of the area.  That will result in an indirect negative impact upon other businesses and the job market here.

Sounds to me like some folks want to steal from my grandchildren, not guarantee them the natural beauty, historical preservation, and recreational opportunities provided by our national parks and monuments.

A public comment period on the peak-season entrance fee proposal is open from October 24 to November 23, 2017, on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website https://parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates. If you’re old fashioned, written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

October 26, 2017 | By Steve Brown


Mr. Brown wrote an extensive article, exploring all sides of this controversy. Brown breakdowns the certain and unfortunate impact that unprecedented spikes in fees will have on the  Morongo Basin, and the children of America. This is a very long article… an outstanding article…  shortened for the CT format. 

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