Will it cost more to enter Yosemite?

Entrance fees into Yosemite National Park may increase during peak seasons.
Entrance fees into Yosemite National Park may increase during peak seasons. Sierra Star File Photo

Under a recent National Park Service (NPS) proposal, entrance fees to 17 national parks, including Yosemite, could increase from $30 to $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot, during peak season beginning May 1, 2018.

The estimated gain in revenue is about $70 million yearly, which would be used for improvements to aging infrastructures - roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms and other visitor services.

Visit Yosemite / Madera County, the tourism marketing arm for the county, strongly opposes this fee hike during the busier months of the year (May through September).

“We are shocked that NPS is proposing a 133% fee increase after the 50% increase that just took effect in March of 2015. We know that infrastructure is aging in many of the parks, but don’t feel that the burden for this should be placed on the American people and visitors,” said Visit Yosemite / Madera County CEO Rhonda Salisbury.

The visitor’s bureau believes this increase will impact visitation, based upon previous entrance fee spikes like the one in 1997 when Yosemite’s entrance fee jumped from $5 per private vehicle to $20, resulting in lower park attendance until 2015.

“So will this increase help overcrowding in the peak season? A good question. Is this the answer?,” Salisbury asked. “We have asked Yosemite to lower the rates in the off season so we can do more promotions to try to generate more traffic in the off season.”

McClintock’s response

Congressman Tom McClintock, 4th District California, expressed his strong objection to this proposed fee hike to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

“Two of the principal objectives I have set as Chairman of the House Federal Lands Sub-committee are to restore public access to the public lands and to restore the federal government as a good neighbor to those communities directly impacted by the public lands. The proposed fee increases run counter to both of these policies,” McClintock said. “At a time when we are trying to encourage more Americans to visit and value our national parks, more than doubling entrance fees is certain to have a significant impact on park visits and the commerce they bring to our gateway communities.”

In a prepared press release, Zinke explained the need for this fee hike: “The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration. 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. We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today. Shoring up our parks' aging infrastructure will do that.”

Public comment period

The deadline to send in a written comment on this proposed increase is Nov. 23. See https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?documentID=81250. Written comments can also be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

National Park Legacy Act

There has been a bi-partisan effort underway to address the maintenance backlog in national parks for quite some time. Called the National Park Legacy Act of 2017, there are bills currently in committee in both the US House and Senate.

This Legacy Act, introduced into the Senate in March, does two things. It establishes the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund, and secondly, requires specified amounts be deposited into such fund each fiscal year through 2047. These funds would then be allocated to meet high-priority deferred maintenance needs within the national parks.