Entrance fees at many of the country's most popular national parks could soon go way up.
To address a backlog of maintenance needs and infrastructure improvements, the National Park Service has proposed increasing admission charges to $70 per vehicle at 16 sites, up from the current fee of $25 to $30 depending on the park.
That would mean more than doubling—or, in the case of the $25 fee, almost tripling—the amount drivers have to pay at pretty much all of the places you might think of when we say "national park": Arizona's Grand Canyon (pictured above); Wyoming's Grand Teton and Yellowstone; California's Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Sequoia & Kings Canyon; Utah's Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Zion; Maine's Acadia; Colorado's Rocky Mountain; Washington's Mount Rainier and Olympic; and Virginia's Shenandoah.
The vehicle rate doesn't apply at Denali National Park in Alaska, but the per-person fee would skyrocket from $10 to $30.
The higher fees would be in effect only during each park's five busiest contiguous months, which can vary but usually correspond with family vacation season, May through September. There would still be free-admission days, and the cost of an annual pass would remain $80.
The Park Service estimates that the price hike would bring in $70 million annually that could be used to repair and maintain signs, campgrounds, trails, exhibits, restrooms, and such—both for the 118 sites that charge admission and for the rest that do not.
But critics contend that the federal government should fund upkeep using taxes—not visitors—and others worry that high admission prices will make U.S. national parks inaccessible to a large chunk of the population, inflaming issues of economic inequality.
At this point, the increase is merely a proposal. On Tuesday, the clock started on a 30-day public comment period during which Americans are invited to weigh in. You can do that—and learn more about the plan—at the National Park Service website.