• Coke Oven Views
  • Steve was accidentally in the scene at Double Arches in Arches National Park
  • Navago Trail in Bryce Canyon
  • Redwoods in John Muir Woods National Monument

Funding our National Parks

by Steve Fullerton

Donna and I recently completed a 3-week trip to South Africa. For Donna, who is a professional artist/photographer, this was a bucket list trip and with the opportunity to visit several diverse areas of the country it provided a great experience and a lifetime of memories for us.  Since outdoor tourism and activities have become a focus of our hometown, Grand Junction, and for that matter dozens of towns and cities across the USA, I thought it appropriate to write about the cost of our National Parks and the debate over the NPS wanting to raise entrance and annual pass fees.  The increases are indeed warranted and needed to account for the cost of maintaining and repairing our parks, monuments, and memorials as we are truly loving them to death.

We had heard and saw first hand, that the South African National Parks have a multi-tiered system of fees with international travelers paying the highest cost. As international visitors we are charged R340 per day per person to enter Kruger. This is roughly $30-35 US per person per day depending on the currency exchange rate. And think about this: It is a park that is only open from dawn to dusk and it doesn’t matter what time of day you enter, you still pay the full rate. And do not be late leaving the park by the stated closing time as fine can be as high as $200 per person. It gets worse if they have to come find you.

Additionally, your visit to a SA park is almost entirely experienced from inside of your vehicle except for a few specific areas. There are very few opportunities to do anything remotely approaching a hike and nothing like the availability of trails we have here. This is of course a safety concern as there are lions, leopards, and other predators about, but at the same time we have bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and other predators in our own parks.

Other facilities we take for granted in our own parks were also limited and spartan at best: Picnic areas, camping, visitor centers, etc. were far and few between in most parks. By comparison, in the US we charge at most $25-30 per car load and most Parks include a 7 day use with an annual pass costing only $80 for two people but still good for a car load and includes entrance to over 400 NPS units. I explained this to guides and park employees and their wide eyed, open mouthed response was always: “How do your parks function charging so little?”

It is time for our National Parks to be properly funded legislatively as well as charging fair market value at the gate. We should adopt a multi-tiered systems of fees as well as looking at changing our fees for residents and regional visitors. I see no reason to not have a per person charge versus a vehicle charge. A car does little damage if people keep to the road and assigned parking areas versus people on foot, not staying the trail or other direct impacts related to their visit. And $80 for an annual pass is way too low in my opinion. By way of comparison the average family vacation for a week at Disney runs $3,500-10,000 with the average cost being $6,300 for travel, food, passes, and related expenses. (Source: www.time.com Money May 15, 2017)

We have heard for years about the need for people “To Pay Their Fair Share”.  Our National Parks are a great place to start.

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