SALT LAKE CITY - The cost to visit most National Parks in Utah during peak season could more than double, if a proposal from the national park service goes through.
Tuesday the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, commented on the aging infrastructure of the national parks and the need for fee increases.
Zike wants to create a price hike at 17 parks, four of which are in Utah.
"The Mighty Five Campaign" was aired to highlight the breathtaking beauty of Utah's national parks. Since its launch, the state has seen record visitation.
“I know the national parks are having a hard time maintaining a quality experience for our visitors at certain times of the year,” said Emily Monch from the Utah Office of Tourism.
That's why the national park service is proposing a jump in entry fees at Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon National Parks, as well as 13 other parks across the county. Officials are proposing a jump from the average $25 to $30 entry, to $70 per person during the peak season.
“The influx of people in the summer is huge, you can go down to Zion in winter and hike the narrows and see just a handful of people where you're there. In the summer, you'll experience a lot more people and have a different experience,” Monch said.
The national park service hopes the added revenue will help with maintenance, a growing demand in Utah's parks.
“Zion National Park alone has about $60 million in backlog of maintenance,” Monch said.
In an announcement released Tuesday, Zinke said:
“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 amazing destinations they are visiting."
“We do have some concerns about pricing out lower income families and people so we're hoping we can discuss those concerns and come to a good resolution,” Monch said.
If you have concerns, you can bring those up during an open comment period that runs through November 24. Annual park passes to get into Utah's parks will remain $80 for the time being.
“We want to emphasize this is just a proposal now we expect to see a lot of review and undergo a lot of changes before anything gets put into place for sure,” Monch said.
Public comment about the proposal is being solicited online, here.
Wednesday, Rep. Mia Love, a Republican representing Utah's Fourth District, joined Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, in co-authoring a letter to Zinke in which they ask him not to follow through with the increased rate.
Love and Sinema acknowledge the need to fund maintenance and updates at national parks but express concerns the price increase will make it harder for families with low incomes to attend and that the increase will reduce tourism to areas that rely on that economic boost.
See below for the full letter:
Dear Secretary Zinke:
We write concerning a recent proposal by the National Park Service (NPS) to significantly increase entrance fees at 17 national parks.
As you know, the mission of the NPS is to conserve and protect public parks for the enjoyment of future generations. NPS receives federal funding through the appropriations process and also assesses entrance fees to supplement its funding. Despite this, NPS faces a significant maintenance backlog and a growing need to update infrastructure and improve services and accessibility for visitors.
We recognize the importance of addressing deferred maintenance and improving infrastructure, but we are concerned that a steep increase in fees would make it more difficult for Americans to access and enjoy the public lands that have been rightfully ours for generations. For example, the NPS proposal more than doubles weekly vehicle entrance fees at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion from $30 to $70.
Our national parks also support jobs in nearby communities, where a good job is often tough to come by. Large fee increases in our national parks will discourage the tourism that sustains these communities. We should be doing everything we can to ensure rural communities have opportunities to succeed.
All of us agree that NPS deserves the funding it needs to address maintenance needs and ensure future generations can enjoy our national parks, but a proposal that more than doubles fees to access our parks isn’t the answer. We look forward to working with you to find thoughtful solutions that provide adequate funding for our national parks while ensuring these treasured places remain accessible for all Americans.
Thank you for your attention to this request.
Congresswoman Mia Love
Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema