Written by David Castellon
Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks will join neighboring Yosemite National park in raising their vehicle entry fees to $35.
The $5 increases will take effect June 1 as part of an effort to raise additional funds to maintain national parks across the country.
“The fee structure announced today addresses many concerns and ideas provided by the public on how best to address fee revenue for parks,” states a press release issued today by the Park Service.
It goes on to say that 80 percent of entry fees at Sequoia and Kings Canyon stay in the park “and are devoted to spending that supports the visitor.”
“This year we are repairing campground restrooms, replacing outdated educational exhibits, and rehabilitating the John Muir Trail with entrance fee dollars,” Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks, said in a written statement.
Other uses for the money will include working on some deferred maintenance projects that will include replacing the Lodgepole Visitor Center roof, improving the wildlife habitats in Crescent Meadow and Round Meadow and repairing multiple trail bridges.
As for the remaining 20 percent of the entry fees income, that goes to the Park Service.
Originally, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed more than doubling the main entry fees at the 17 most popular national parks to $70, but widespread opposition from lawmakers and governors of both parties — along with more than 109,000 comments from the public that mostly opposed that fee — prompted the agency to go forward with the lesser rate hike to $35.
Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia parks currently are among the 17 national parks charging the highest entry fees of the nation’s 117 parks. The Park Service has announced that their fees also will go up by $5.
At Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks, motorcycle entry fees will go up $5 to $25, while annual passes will go up $10 to $60.
National parks have experienced record-breaking visitation, with more than 1.5 billion visitors in the last five years. Throughout the country, the combination of aging infrastructure and increased visitation affects park roads, bridges, buildings, campgrounds, water systems, bathrooms and other facilities, states the press release, which notes that national parks have a combined $11.6 billion backlog of deferred maintenance.
Entrance fees collected by the Park Service totaled $199.9 million in fiscal 2016, and agency officials estimate that the fee increases could raise an additional $60 million annually.
Contains material from the Associated Press