The federal government listened to the people and is backing away from a proposal to triple entrance fees at Mount Rainier, Olympic and other popular national parks.
The National Park Service received more than 109,000 comments on those plans in the two months ending in late December, mostly against the proposal. A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday officials are taking the public’s suggestions seriously and have decided not to use a big fee increase at 17 parks to pay for maintenance projects.
That’s a wise decision. Similar logic should be applied to other misguided plans, including drilling in irreplaceable coastal areas.
America’s coastal areas and its parks are both national treasures. Families on camping trips, hikers, boaters and backcountry skiers all should be able to visit their national parks, not just the wealthy.
The fee hike announced last October would have increased peak-season entrance fees from $25 per car to $70 and from $10 to $30 for those on foot or bike. Motorcycle fees would increase from $20 to $50.
Americans should not be gouged to visit parks they already own. Reasonable fee increases are necessary to maintain services, but tripling entrance fees would just leave fewer Americans unable to enjoy their national parks.
Better ways to pay for much needed maintenance include a bill sponsored by U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, that would dedicate a portion of federal mineral proceeds to parks, generating $50 million to start and $500 million a year eventually. That measure would support much progress in addressing an $11 billion maintenance backlog in park maintenance. The fee increase had been estimated to generate $70 million.
Americans should remember the way public outrage changed the outcome of this misguided plan and keep voicing their opinions strongly when their government makes plans with which they disagree.