ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Everyone who had been worried that a near tripling of the park’s entrance fees this summer would sharply reduce visitation can breathe a sigh of relief.
Starting June 1, entrance fees will rise from $25 to $30 for private vehicles, from $20 to $25 for motorcycles and from $12 to $15 for hikers and bike riders. The price of annual passes to Acadia will go from $50 to $55.
Similar increases are being implemented in all of the 117 National Park Service units that charge entrance fees.
The fee hikes are much smaller than the ones initially proposed by the NPS. The agency announced in October that it was looking at raising entrance fees, but only for 17 of America’s most-visited national parks, including Acadia, during their peak visitor seasons.
That plan called for entrance passes at Acadia, which are good for one week, to go from $25 to $70 from June through October. Entrance fees would have increased from $20 to $50 for motorcycles and from $12 to $30 for people walking or biking in the park.
The NPS said the higher fees were needed to generate “badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of the national parks.”
Since that announcement, the NPS reported it received more than 100,000 comments on the proposed fee hikes. Ninety-eight percent of those comments were critical of the plan, according to the private nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.
The NPS is an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledged the overwhelming public opposition to the original fee increase proposal when he announced the new entrance fee structure last Thursday. He said the American people had “made their voices heard” and helped the DOI develop “a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases at the 117 fee-charging parks as opposed to larger increases proposed for 17 highly visited national parks.”
The NPS had said the original plan would raise an additional $70 million a year to address infrastructure needs in the national parks. It estimates the revised plan will increase revenue by about $60 million a year.
The NPS said last year that the more than 400 NPS units, including 59 national parks, had an $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog. The entrance fee hikes are intended to help chip away at that backlog.
Acadia officials said in a press release that the additional revenue will help fund a number of maintenance and infrastructure projects in the park, such as “a rehabilitation of the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, removal of trees [downed by winter storms] blocking visitor access, re-striping of park roads and parking spaces, and replacement of the electric power lines in the Schoodic area of the park.”
Acadia keeps 80 percent of the funds generated by entrance fees. The other 20 percent goes to help fund projects in other NPS units.
Many national park friends and advocacy groups around the country had objected to the proposal to significantly raise entrance fees at 17 parks. Last month, the Acadia Advisory Commission voted unanimously to oppose the plan.
Commission Chair Jackie Johnston sent a letter to Zinke in which she said, “A higher visitation fee would simply make it cost prohibitive for many families to come to Acadia to experience the beauty and peace they have enjoyed for generations. In fact, the fee could prevent them from ever seeing it.”
She said the effect of a fee increase of the size originally proposed would be “inconsistent with the fundamental reason national parks were established.”
Updated April 18 at 11:23 a.m.