The People Have Spoken (Loudly): No Fee Hikes at National Parks

Two hikers seen as silhouettes in Arches National Park, Utah.
Karl Weatherly/Getty Images

If you’re still trying to decide on summer travel plans, here’s some news that might make your decision a little bit easier.

The plan to hike entry fees at national parks across the U.S. has been halted — meaning you can add those dreamy destinations back onto your travel bucket list.

Planned National Parks Fee Raises Halted

Back in October, we talked about the proposed fee hikes from the National Park Service (and, more specifically, from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke), and what people could do to stop the increased fees from being put into effect.

The intended increases would have raised per-vehicle entrance fees by $45, per-person fees by $20 and per-park annual passes by as much as $40.

The original reasoning for charging higher fees was to ensure that national land could be protected and preserved for years to come.

After announcing the proposed fee hikes, the National Park Service opened up a 30-day public forum where people could make their voices heard — and boy, did they.

Backlash on Proposed Rate Hikes

More than 100,000 people voiced their opinions on the rate hike, and nearly all of them were vehemently opposed.

The Interior Department released about half the comments from the forum to The Washington Post.

“I know if I were considering a trip to one of these parks and suddenly found that the trip would incur an exorbitant entrance fee,” wrote one of the commenters, “I would not… repeat not take my family on this trip.”

“Having to pay $70 just to get in would definitely make me consider other options for our family vacation,” another commenter wrote.

In a March congressional committee hearing, Zinke hinted that the pricing was meant to be exclusionary, saying that “some of our principal parks are loved to death.”

And it would have been exclusionary.

According to the same article in The Washington Post, Rich Dolesh, a vice president for the National Recreation and Park Association, said a survey showed that the people who were less likely to visit a national park after the fee hike took effect were those who earned $30,000 or less per year.

One public forum commenter expressed concern over this issue, saying, “As a current employee of the NPS and an avid visitor of NPS sites, I believe increasing the rates in the 17 parks will make the parks unaffordable for families and low-income individuals.”

What Next?

Still, a long-term solution for maintaining the parks must be found, but people are hoping that solution will come from Congress and the president. And while the public forum did help halt the implementation of the new fee structure, Zinke may propose a new plan soon.

An Interior Department official who spoke to The Washington Post explained the department is still considering a 10% fee increase at the about 100 parks that currently charge for entry.

For the time being, though, it seems that entrance fees to the national parks will stay at current levels — excellent news for anyone who wants to visit one of the parks soon.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.