Monday, November 27, 2017

Open Comments (For Sharing) to the National Park Service

As I think most of you know, we love the National Parks. As in, LOVE. THEM. Want to see them all. We are highly invested in the National Park System, buy an annual pass every year, the whole outdoor kit-and-caboodle. 

The National Park Service is currently accepting comments for their proposed rate hike plan, which would implement dynamic pricing at the most well-traveled parks that would double entrance fees (or in some cases, more than double) during peak seasons. This would not affect annual park pass fees, just single entries. 

While I understand and support the need to maintain the national parks and preserve wilderness areas, I disagree with this plan. You can read the full proposal from the park service here. I think this jeopardizes future generations' engagement and appreciation of the parks, and ultimately will only serve to undermine the system set up to protect these American gems. (I also find it ironic that the same administration that just slashed the size of other park service properties and decreased the amount of protected land is seeking more money for "preservation" but different argument for a different day.) 
Petrified Forest National Park
The comment period has been extended until December 22. I have already submitted my comments, but would encourage you to do so as well. Below are my exact comments and my proposed alternative. Please feel free to share if you like, in order to protect our parks for future generations! 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rate increase during peak season for high-use national parks. The proposed rate hike to $70 per car entrance, $30 per hiker/biker entrance, and $50 per motorcycle entrance double or more-than-doubles current rates. I believe that this rate hike would deter use at these parks, as a rate hike doubling would cause significant financial burden on families intending to visit the parks.  Additionally, a rate hike of this magnitude would be in violation of the spirit and letter of the law that founded the National Park System.

The National Park Service Organic Act, signed into law on August 25, 1916, states:  “The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” The point of emphasis here, and for consideration, is the phrase “for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” A doubling of the entrance fees for these parks will most certainly “impair” the ability of people to enjoy the parks.

I understand the need to maintain the parks, and therefore, would propose an alternative. In the National Park Service’s proposal, it notes that “118 of 417 National Park Service sites charge an entrance fee. The other 299 national parks do not charge an entrance fee.”  While I don’t believe that charging a nominal fee at all of the other 299 national parks would completely offset the funds you are attempting to raise by this rate hike, it would help with these costs. In order not to take on additional staffing, I would propose a “fee box” like the many that are in place across the country at various national parks and national monuments (both general entrance fees and for camping feed) for after-hours deposits. A per car fee of $5 for national parks that currently do not charge any fee would help generate revenue without the undue burden to visitors that would be caused by doubling peak-season rates. Phasing this in over the next year would allow you to evaluate the revenue obtained, and then, if necessary consider alternative funding measures that would not result in such a dramatic impact to visitors.

Thank you for your consideration,

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