National Park Service proposes increased fees for Shenandoah

The National Park Service is proposing to increase the fee to enter 17 national parks, including Shenandoah National Park.

If the proposal is adopted, starting on June 1, it will cost $70 for a non-commercial vehicle to enter Shenandoah National Park — a steep hike from the current cost of $25. The cost for motorcycles to enter the park will increase from $20 to $50, and the cost for individuals walking or riding a bicycle into the park will increase from $10 to $30.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the National Park Service stated that it needs to raise fees in order to maintain the parks.

“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was quoted in the release as saying. “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting.”

The majority of the funding  Shenandoah National Park receives from fees will go back to the park. Just 20 percent of the cost of the fees go to other parks within the National Park Service.

At Shenandoah National Park, visitor fees have gone toward paying for signage at Skyline Drive and working on entrance systems, Claire Comer, a public information officer for the park, said. The park has also used the money to pay for some of its informational material.

“We’ve done some visitor’s service projects,” Comer said. “Like the fee money helps pay for the brochures and the hiking maps that we give out for free.”

But the park has had a backlog in its maintenance work. The Park Service is hoping that the increase in fees brings more revenue to help complete more maintenance jobs.

The Park Service is also proposing to increase the cost of an annual pass at Shenandoah National Park. Currently, it costs $50 for a person and passengers in their vehicle to attend the park. That cost will increase to $75 for the year.

Meanwhile, annual passes to visit all of the parks will remain $80.

That leaves the options of attending Shenandoah National Park once, receiving an annual pass for Shenandoah National Park, or receiving an annual pass for every national park all within $10 of each other.

But Jeremy Barnum, a spokesperson for the Park Service, said that the agency is not trying to get more people to purchase annual passes.

Instead, Barnum said the National Parks Service determined its proposed prices based on entrance fee costs elsewhere.

“When we came up with this proposal, some of the things we looked at were prices for other family attractions and other park-like visit or entrance fees,” Barnum said.

The proposal only increases the entrance fees to the national parks during their five-month peak seasons. That means that the cost of attending Shenandoah National Park between June and October will increase.

However, the cost of attending the park outside that peak season will remain unchanged.

“I think if the intention is to increase revenue, it makes the most sense to make it during the peak season period,” Barnum said.

The National Parks Service is receiving public comments for the proposal until Nov. 23.

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