ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (CBS4)– The National Park Service has proposed a fee increase that could put a daily pass to Rocky Mountain National Park at $70 during peak visiting season.
“It was a shock at first, but I realize the need for it,” said Christopher Crews, a park visitor.
The National Park Service has proposed the fee increase for improvements to the aging infrastructure at some of the most popular parks in the system. This includes roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services.
That daily pass is actually a seven-day pass during the peak season, according to RMNP spokeswoman Kyle Patterson. The daily pass is not available during peak season and only seven-day passes and annual passes are sold during those five months.
“There’s a lot of need… poor roadways, maintain facilities. I’m not surprised they need to raise the fees,” said Michele Sehaff, who visits the park.
The Sehaff family has traveled to several national parks this year. They say it’s been an affordable journey compared to other types of entertainment for a family of four.
“Well how much is it to go to the movies? Everything costs money. This is still a bargain at $70,” said Jeffrey Sehaff.
There are 17 parks listed on the most visited parks, which includes Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The peak visiting season for RMNP is considered June through October.
Right now a one-day pass per vehicle is $20, a one-day pass per person is $10, and a one-day pass per motorcycle is $20. A seven-day pass per vehicle is $30, a seven-day pass per person is $15 and a seven-day pass per motorcycle is $25.
An annual pass to Rocky Mountain National Park right now is $60. Under the proposed fee increase an annual pass to the park would be $75.
Under the proposed fee increase, the peak season for each park would be defined as its busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation.
“It’s worth it. We just drove through an elk herd and she got to hear it bugle. You can’t put a price on that,” said Jenn Odom.
According to the National Park Service, the list of the most popular parks are Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grant Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks with peak season starting on May 1, 2018; in Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Shenandoah National Parks with peak season starting on June 1, 2018; and in Joshua Tree National Park as soon as practicable in 2018.
The increase could increase National Park revenue by $70 million per year, that’s a 34 percent increase over the $200 million collected in the fiscal year 2016.
Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, 80 percent of the entrance fee remains in the park where it is collected and the other 20 percent is spent on projects in other national parks.
“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in a statement. “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 worldclass 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.”
Some locals like John Meissner still worry, “I’m worried how it’ll effect our local economy if we raise it that high that quickly. Estes wouldn’t exist without Rocky.”
The cost of the annual America the Beautiful- The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which provides entrance to all federal lands, including parks for a one-year period, would remain $80.
“For those who really enjoy the park, they’ll find a way to go,” said Christopher Crews.
Proposal information and a public comment forum is available through November 23, 2017 on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website.