Proposed NPS Fee Increase

Entrance to SNP
Entrance to Shenandoah National Park
The National Park Service (NPS) has proposed an increase in entrance fees at 17 parks, including Shenandoah, during the “peak” season.  The peak season for SNP would be June 1-October 31.  At that time, it would cost $70 for a car to enter the park. Entrance fees the rest of the year would remain at $25 per vehicle. The annual pass for SNP, currently $50, would be increased to $75. The “America the Beautiful” annual pass for all parks would remain at $80.

[PATC Comment Filed with National Park Service - pdf]

PATC is deeply concerned about this proposal. We will be sharing those concerns with the Park Service. We urge anyone who has similar concerns or who would be impacted by the increased fees to review the proposal and then comment before November 23. The comment process starts here. To make your comment, you should end up here.

The PATC maintains the Appalachian Trail and most blue-blazed side trails in the Shenandoah National Park. The club has been doing volunteer trail work for 90 years in the area which is now the Shenandoah National Park, planning and building many of those trails. The club also maintains and rents six primitive cabins in the park.

Our concerns about the NPS proposal, include:

Fall Colors in SNP
Fall in the Shenandoah National Park
  • The public should be encouraged to visit its National Parks, not discouraged.
  • Policies that govern how each park is operated should be decided by managerial staff within each park, not from Washington, as this policy does.
  • The proposal comes as a surprise, with an abbreviated comment period, and apparently with no public hearings.

  • The backlog of maintenance issues has arisen over time because  Washington politicians have starved the Parks budgets for year after year. Poor stewardship of our National Parks by elected officials and their appointees has been the problem. Park visitors did not cause the backlog; why should they be expected to foot the bill? Even if more revenue is generated, which is doubtful, this policy would cause more problems than it solves. The following problems are only the tip of the iceberg:
    • Hurting local economies;
    • Encouraging illegal entry and disrespect for Park regulations;
    • Creating animosity towards innocent Park employees;
    • Disrupting usage patterns in nearby free Parks and Forests;
    • Alienating adjoining landowners who have to deal with trespassing; and
    • Overwhelming the small parking areas where no fees are collected.

  • Corbin Cabin
  • It is unclear that this proposal will work for its stated purpose in the targeted parks. A $70 one time entrance fee would make the $80 all-parks annual pass the preferable option for many, but the majority of the revenue from the annual pass goes to the park that sells it, not the park(s) where it is used. The annual pass is also available online. SNP would derive not a cent from those who buy their passes elsewhere.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that the fee increases were targeted to “our most-visited parks.” Shenandoah is not among the most visited parks. It ranked 58th out of all national parks in recreational visits in 2016.

 

PATC hopes Shenandoah National Park will identify and publicize its maintenance needs, since the club could potentially increase trail and cabin maintenance efforts there. Meeting shortfalls with volunteer labor in lieu of a huge fee increase would seem to be consistent with the ethic of the national parks. The PATC recognizes that the parks need greater funding. We are not against increased revenue or larger user fees. But before we make entrance to the Shenandoah National Park more expensive than going to Kings Dominion, let’s see what the real maintenance needs are and how we can address them.

 

Club members are encouraged to comment to the Park Service and their elected representatives. If you have a question or comment about the club’s position on this matter, contact Anstr Davidson, Supervisor of Communications; Communications@patc.net or any other elected officer.


Sunset from Rock Spring Cabin
Sunset from Rock Spring Cabin