By Craig Sailor / The News Tribune
TACOMA — A visit to see Mount Rainier’s wildflowers or Olympic National Park’s Hoh Rain Forest might set you back $70 in 2018.
And you still can’t pick the flowers.
That’s the plan the National Park Service is considering during high visit months at those and 15 other national parks. The NPS is targeting the most popular parks at the most popular times.
The proposal is aimed at reducing the backlog of maintenance projects at parks all over the United States.
The fees, the NPS said, “… will generate badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks.”
Nearly all of the parks are in the West.
Under the proposal, peak season entrance fees for each park would be defined as its busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation.
For Rainier that period is June 1-Oct. 31.
For Olympic the period is May 1-Sept. 30.
During that time, the entry fee would increase from the current $25 to $70 per vehicle. Motorcycles would be charged $50 instead of the current $20, and a walk-in or bicycle fee would jump from $10 to $30.
The fee increases would become effective in 2018.
The NPS is also proposing revised fees for commercial tours.
“All of the funds would be used to improve facilities, infrastructure, and visitor services, with an emphasis on deferred maintenance projects,” the NPS said.
Reaction to the proposal was swift.
“Given the scale of the backlog, fees alone cannot be the answer to this enormous challenge,” the National Parks Conversation Association said Tuesday.
“We should not increase fees to such a degree as to make these places — protected for all Americans to experience — unaffordable for some families to visit,” said Theresa Pierno, the group’s president. “The solution to our parks’ repair needs cannot and should not be largely shouldered by its visitors.”
The NPS’s annual pass which provides free entrance to all parks for a year will remain $80. Only 118 of 417 NPS sites charge an entrance fee.
The nearly $200 million collected in entrance fees could climb to $268 million, the government estimated.
All of the money will stay within the NPS and 80 percent of the entrance fees will remain in the park where it is collected.
The NPS is taking comment on the proposal for 30 days, which started Tuesday and closes Nov. 23. Comments can be submitted to: parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates.