« Return to this article

Know the West

Pay to play


While the prospect of higher access fees to public lands — particularly national parks — is a valid concern, as a frequent park visitor, I see the two most pressing concerns as being: (1) The cost of the immense backlog of maintenance to the infrastructure of the parks, and (2) the daily damage being done to the parks and the park experience by more visitors than the parks can handle on any given day (“Who should pay for public lands?HCN, 12/25/17).  The popular trails are chock-full of families with screaming kids and adults, which drives off any chance of wildlife encounters, and in parks such as Rocky Mountain and Yosemite, the park-and-ride lots are routinely full before noon on weekends, and visitors are being turned away. It isn’t much better on weekdays during high season.

The thought of raising the price of admission, both to control crowd size and to pay for the maintenance background, is sad, but we are loving our parks to their demise. Congress is not going to give the parks more money — people don’t want to pay more in taxes — so raising fees remains the only option, other than doing nothing, which ensures failure. In fairness, the National Park Service could then offer free admission on a couple more dates than they already do.

The Park Service really should consider admission on a per-person (versus per vehicle) basis. I am a Golden Eagle Passport holder, but I would gladly pay an annual renewal fee and see all the free lifetime passes done away with. The entrance fees to me seem unreasonably low compared to other entertainment options, such as $200 for one Taylor Swift, Eagles or similar concert ticket.

John W. Thomas
Fort Collins, Colorado