People will have to pay more to visit and camp at Mount Rainier National Park beginning Friday.
Under the increase plan, the fee for a single vehicle seven-day permit would rise to $20 Friday and to $25 in May 2016. Camping fees will jump to $20 a night.
The National Park Service announced the fee increases Monday afternoon.
The Park Service said last year that it would be looking at increasing fees at all 131 parks that charge fees, with the intent to increase the amount of money available for park programs and maintenance. No change in fees was announced for Olympic National Park on Monday.
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When the full increases are in place, the park will net about $1 million in additional revenue, park superintendent Randy King said. The park currently generates about $2.5 million a year through fees.
Park Service rules allow the park to keep up to 80 percent of the fees collected, while the remaining 20 percent goes to park units that do not collect fees.
Revenue from this program has been used on projects like converting the Carbon River Road into a trail, facility improvements at Camp Muir, accessibility improvements at the Sunrise Visitor Center and restoration work on meadows damaged by visitors.
“With a $300 million maintenance backlog, it’s not hard to find places to spend that money,” King said. “That’s why this is so important. It’s money we don’t have otherwise and won’t get otherwise.”
King said the park currently is spending about $5 million in fee revenue to install new power and telecommunication lines along the Nisqually Road corridor to Paradise.
“That is work that will last another generation,” King said.
Additional fee revenue also positions the park to better compete for the larger funding needed to renovate the Paradise Inn Annex. Cost estimates for that project are around $15 million.
King admitted there is a concern people could stay away from the park because of the increase.
“You don’t want to dissuade people from coming to these places that belong to them. You’re always trying to wrestle with that,” he said.
He felt the fee free days the Park Service offers each year help alleviate some of that concern.
“The reality is, if we’re going to take care of the parks, we’re going to have rely on the people who visit them, if we’re going to take care of them for the next generation,” the superintendent said.
Mount Rainier was the first park to charge vehicle entrance fees, collecting $2 in 1907. Eighty years later, the cost for a one-week visit to the park rose to $5 per vehicle. In 1996 the fee was increased to $10. The last increase was is 2006 when it went up to $15.
“We’re having to rely more and more on the people who come to the park, not only through fees but also in ways like volunteering, so people can come to these places and enjoy them,” King added.