Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park, image by Edward Smith
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park will use entrance fees to pay for staffing amidst the government shutdown and calls for needed cleanup at the park.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt decided to use funds under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) for garbage collection, restroom servicing and other emergency maintenance, according to a press release from Rep. Tom McClintock’s office (R-Elk Grove).
These are mostly made from entrance, camping and parking fees, among other sources.
Each park generates its own revenue from entrance fees and funds will vary by park, said Rocky Deal, chief of staff for Congressman McClintock.
In a letter penned to Secretary Bernhardt, McClintock said that Yosemite’s concessionaire Aramark has been maintaining the restrooms and garbage collection “at its own expense.”
Delaware North Corporation has been likewise been maintaining Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, according to the letter.
Representatives at neither Aramark nor Delaware North weren’t immediately available for comment.
Yosemite National Park, in addition to the other 58 national parks, have been without funding since December 2018. It is now in its 17th day.
McClintock had called for funding due to what he called in a letter “a clear risk to public health and safety and to federal property.”
The move to fund the parks by its entrance fees has not been without controversy.
Democratic lawmakers also said that FLREA funds are meant for visitors rather than maintenance of parks, according to CBS News.
Others say it distracts from negotiations to get the government funded again.
“Instead of working to reopen the federal government, the administration is robbing money collected from entrance fees to operate our national parks during this shutdown,” said Theresa Pierno in an article by the Associated Press. Pierce is the president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association. “For those parks that don’t collect fees, they will now be in the position of competing for the same inadequate pot of money to protect their resources and visitors. Draining accounts dry is not the answer.”
McClintock, among others in congress, are in support of using these funds for the parks. McClintock’s district extends into large areas of the Sequoia National Forest.
“FLREA funds paid by park visitors are specifically set aside for ‘repair, maintenance, and facility enhancement related directly to visitor enjoyment, visitor access, and health and safety,’” McClintock said in a press release. “Clearly these purposes fall within the parameters of the act and are not subject to the appropriations lapse.”