Ocean City Today

Assateague left out of fee increases at national parks

By Brian Gilliland | Nov 02, 2017

(Nov. 3, 2017) Assateague Island National Seashore is not among the parks exploring substantial entrance fee increases, announced early last week by the National Park Service, to address what it calls a “maintenance backlog.”

The park service will determine, after a 30-day public comment period ending Nov. 23, if the new fee structure will be implemented during peak tourist season.

It is accepting comments online through its parkplanning.nps.gov website, or via regular mail sent to 1849 C Street NW, Mail Stop 2346, Washington DC 20240.

Peak season rates at the affected national parks are proposed to increase significantly, with the prices rivaling those of theme park admissions at Six Flags or Busch Gardens, according to the Washington Post.

All of the 17 affected parks admissions prices will increase to $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle or $30 per person.

The park service also offers annual passes, called the American the Beautiful — The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, for $80. This cost is not expected to change.

Assateague’s admission prices last increased in 2015. Private, non-commercial vehicles cost $20 for seven days’ worth of admission, motorcycles are $15 for the same time period and the per-person fee is $5.

According to a fact sheet provided by the park service, the hikes “will likely increase total entrance fee revenues from $199.9 million to $268.5 million annually — an increase of 34.3 percent over fiscal year 2016.”

The current federal budget proposal would cut $400 million from the parks. Also, Congress is considering a bipartisan bill, the National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017 that would divert $50 million from federal mineral revenues each year for fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020 to address maintenance issues at national parks.

Entrance fee revenues stay within the National Park Service. Of that money, 80 percent remains within the park where it was collected, while the remainder can be spent on projects in other parks.

According to Liz Davis, interpretation and education chief at Assateague, a bit more than half — 55 percent — of the 80 percent remaining in the park must be used on deferred maintenance projects like roads, campgrounds and waterlines, among others. The rest goes towards visitor services like lifeguards, visitor center exhibits and campground maintenance.

The selected parks are the busiest in the country: Acadia, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Olympic, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion National Parks.

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