Since opening the public comment period on their national park fee increase proposal back in October, the National Park Service (NPS) and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have yet to make an official decision. But yesterday, The Washington Post reported that the NPS and Department of the Interior (DOI) are backing away from that initial proposal.

As Darryl Fears of The Washington Post writes, “Interior Department officials are backing away from a plan to dramatically increase entrance fees at the most popular national parks after receiving more than 100,000 public comments from Americans nearly unanimously opposed to the idea.”

DOI provided The Post with 50,000 of the public comments, which Fears claims, “For every comment in support, there was a flurry of opposition.”

Simply put, people were none too elated over the peak season fee proposal. That plan would have more than doubled entrance fees at 17 of the most visited national parks during their busiest five month contiguous periods. That would have seen single, non-commercial vehicles paying $70 for entrance. Most national parks currently charge single vehicles $30 to enter.

Visitors in Grand Teton National Park, one of the 17 parks that would have seen a peak season fee increase under the initial plan. Photo: Courtesy of NPS

The proposal would have also increased entrance fees on motorcycles to $50 and bikes or foot traffic to $30/person, both dramatic increases. While The Post story shows that NPS and DOI are listening to opposition for this initial plan, it also notes that a fee increase is probably still going to happen.

An unnamed DOI official familiar with the entrance fee increase told The Post that there will still be fee spikes, just not as drastic as the initial proposal. They also say that it is being reconsidered for fear that it might cause visitation to plunge, reducing needed revenue at top parks like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Zion and others.

“Our ultimate goal when it comes to entrance fees is to make sure the parks get 80 percent of that revenue … but we also don't want to put a burden on our visitors,” the unnamed DOI official said. “We believe there is room to increase the fees and the annual passes.”

The new fee plans that the NPS and DOI are considering were not disclosed at the time of publication. The Post speculated that such options as a 10-percent fee increase for all parks, a $20 increase for the $80 annual and senior lifetime passes and increasing the rate on tour buses are all potential options on the table.

Director of budget and appropriations for the National Parks Conservation Association Emily Douce told The Post, “[It] gives us hope that the administration has heard the outcry from the public and will abandon or significantly alter their proposal,” referencing that the NPCA’s analysis of submissions during the public comment period showed 98 percent of comments opposed the fee increase.

With spring here and summer on its way, we’re about to embark on the height of national park visitation season. And with undetermined fee increases looming, would-be visitors of national parks who chimed in during the public comment period for the initial plan will have to hope their dissent ultimately rings loud enough to officials. But it appears we should all be preparing for national park entrance fee increases no matter what.

Read the full report from The Washington Post here.

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