The Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR.org), a group of nearly 800 national park rangers and others who support their work, wishes to respectfully express its serious concerns over the proposal to increase some entrance fees to $70, and urges that the fee proposal be reworked.
First, the Association is concerned about ensuring safe conditions for employees and visitors. Park visitors have been expressing frustration over issues including high fees, long lines, lack of parking and lack of staff. There have been incidents of fee collectors and visitor center staff being yelled at and harassed over these issues. In many units of the National Park System, ranger staffing levels have been declining while visitor use has been increasing. Many parks hire seasonal employees during peak season. The fee increase may shift visitor use to off-peak seasons when fewer staff members are available to assist visitors, or it may encourage people to purchase the $80 Annual Pass and increase visitation, further overwhelming existing facilities and staff in some of the proposed parks at the same time park operations budgets are proposed to be cut.
Second, we have concerns that visitors may purchase the $80 Annual Passes in lieu of the single-visit (7-day) $70 passes. Annual Pass receipts are not used to support park transportation systems. In parks with shuttle buses, a major portion of the single-visit entrance fee pays for this transportation system to alleviate traffic congestion. If, instead of paying a $70 entrance fee, visitors purchase Annual Passes, shuttle bus system funding may be in serious jeopardy, adding to overcrowding.
Third, the Association is concerned if entrance fees are raised as proposed, low and middle-income families and individuals may not be able to visit during their summer vacation. If visiting national parks becomes costprohibitive, support for conserving these lands will decrease.
Lastly, we are concerned that a proposal to triple the fees at certain parks assumes that National Park System areas are primarily recreation sites that might be eventually largely financed by visitor receipts. However, more than just recreation sites, these are places that preserve, by law, our natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations. Many values are protected in our national parks, including outstanding wildlife, wilderness, recreation, and historic resources that are the envy of the world. They provide an important “window” into our past and future that must be preserved.
The Association of National Park Rangers wants to keep our national treasures accessible, protected, and safe for all visitors, and believes they ought to be managed primarily with federal tax revenues, with an additional limited contribution of fees from the people who visit in a given year. We look forward to working with the Administration to solve the issues that arise and to ensure the protection of our national parks for future generations.
Contact: Tom Banks, TreasurerANPR@aol.com