The price for entry to Yosemite could rise 50%.
Yosemite announced a proposal to raise entrance and campground fees on Monday, October 20th. The new fees might be in effect by 2015, depending on community response. The announcement opened a a 30-day public comment period.
Park officials have said that the change is motivated by inflation. The current $20 dollar entry fee, established in 1997, would equal $29.64 today.
“In a lot of ways, this $30 increase is basically keeping up with inflation and will enable us to pave the roads, maintain the trails and do special projects,” said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman.
Campsite fees vary, but they could go up 20 percent if the new fees are instituted.
The fees will go primarily toward repairing and maintaining park infrastructure, one of the biggest expenses for most parks. Transportation infrastructure is a particular concern; nationwide more than half of the $9.5 billion dollar maintenance budget is devoted to fixing roads and trails.
A proposed increase in park entrance fees at Yosemite was defeated before in 2007, when the Bush administration tried to raise the price to $25 dollars. Resistance came from local business leaders and politicians, who feared that a rise in price would drive away business. U.S. Rep Tom McClintock expressed similar concerns about the new proposal on Monday.
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“Contrary to assertions by park managers, tourists don’t go where they’re not welcomed, and the national parks compete for tourism with a vast array of other destinations,” said McClintock. “Raising fees in a stagnant economy makes as much sense as a shopkeeper raising prices in a sales slump.”
Others are more cautious. Nanci Sikes, executive director of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, thinks that the long term impact will be minimal.
“For the most part, people believe that even at $30 a car, it is a great value. But it would be nice if it was phased in, maybe going from $20 to $25, and then in a few more years to $30. That would be preferred.”
The National Parks Service is looking at raising the price at other California destinations as well. An August memo handed down by National Parks Service Director Jon Jarvis specified Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Pinnacles, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area as sites that may levy greater entrance fees by January of next year.
Park Superintendent Don Neubacher has indicated that he may ask Jarvis for an exemption if the public response is too negative. The public comments period ends November 20th. The park plans to host an open house for discussing the plan on Wednesday, November 12th in the Yosemite Valley Auditorium from 2:00 to 4:00 pm.