By Shaun Boyd
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (CBS4)– A Colorado Congressman is fighting a proposal to raise the entrance fee at 17 national parks – including Rocky Mountain National Park – during the busy summer season.
This year, drivers paid $20 for a day pass to get in. The plan is to raise that to $70 next year.
Congressman Jared Polis, whose district includes RMNP, called the fee increase “outrageous” saying it will make national parks out of reach for some families, “We all want access to our public lands. This is Colorado for heaven’s sake.”
RMNP set a new record last year with 4.5 million visitors, and with increased use comes increased maintenance. The National Park Service says it has a backlog of more than $11 billion in maintenance projects at RMNP and other national parks. That’s far more than its annual budget of $2.9 billion, which is why it’s proposing more than tripling fees.
Polis says funding the Park Service should fall on Congress not families, “This is not only damaging to families who want to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park, frankly it hurts the economy because the entire economy of places like Estes Park, of our tourism communities, air traffic coming in and out, people who spend money in Denver, relies on our public lands.”
He supports increased funding for the Park Service, but the republican budget passed by the House Thursday cuts funding by $64 million, wiping out most of the $70 million the fee increase would generate.
“It’s all about priorities… to put things in perspective, for the cost of this border wall that Trump is proposing – over $20 billion – we could make all the parks free.”
Most of the other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation have not taken a position on the fee increase. The Parks Service is taking public comment on its website through the end of November. Polis says he will be among those weighing in, in opposition.
Proposal information and a public comment forum is available through November 23, 2017 on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website.