Watching the sunset from Cadillac Mountain will get more expensive five months of the year if a National Park Service plan to increase fees at 17 of the most-visited national parks goes into effect. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Huge fee hikes eyed for Acadia

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Park entrance fees here would nearly triple during the five busiest months of the year – June through October – under proposed rate hikes announced Tuesday by the National Park Service (NPS).

The price of entrance passes that are good for up to seven days would go from $25 to $70 for private, noncommercial vehicles and their occupants, from $20 to $50 for motorcycles and from $12 to $30 for people walking or biking in the park. An Acadia annual pass would increase from $50 to $75.

The NPS said it is considering the higher fees for 17 of America’s most-visited parks to generate “badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of the national parks.”

Last year, Acadia was the eighth most-visited of the 59 national parks, with an estimated 3.3 million visitors. The park is on track to match or exceed that number this year.

The NPS said the proposed higher fees would be charged during each affected park’s “busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation.”

The cost of the annual America the Beautiful pass, which is good for entry to all federal lands, would remain at $80.

The public may comment on the proposed peak-season fee hikes until Nov. 23 here.

David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, said Wednesday that he was surprised by the size of the proposed fee hikes and “concerned that such an increase may serve as a deterrent for the average citizen to enjoy our parks.

“We are working to find out more about how the proposed increases might affect visitors to Acadia and the economy of the surrounding communities,” he continued.

MacDonald said there is no doubt that the national parks, including Acadia, need more financial support as budgets at the federal level are being cut.

“The key is finding the right balance of revenue sources to address those needs,” he said. “Friends of Acadia would not want to see such an increase [in fees] make it more likely that Congress would reduce federal appropriations to support our parks.

“Our organization will definitely weigh in during the 30-day public comment period, and we encourage everyone else to take time to do the same.”

The NPS estimates that the proposed fee hikes would increase national park revenue by $70 million a year, a 34 percent increase over the amount collected in 2016. Under federal law, 80 percent of entrance fees remains in the park where they are collected; 20 percent helps pay for projects in other parks.

“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in a statement announcing the proposed entrance fee hikes.

“Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience … . We need to … take action to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today. Shoring up our parks’ aging infrastructure will do that.”

The NPS said the types of infrastructure needing improvement include roads, bridges, campgrounds, water lines and bathrooms.

A report issued by the NPS in February 2016 said that $68.3 million worth of infrastructure maintenance projects in Acadia had been on hold for more than a year because of a lack of funding. The park’s “deferred maintenance” backlog included more than $40 million for paved and unpaved roads, $10 million for trails and nearly $9 million for buildings.

The national parks and more than 350 other NPS units, such as national monuments and historic sites, had a combined deferred maintenance backlog of $11.5 billion.

In addition to Acadia, the national parks at which the NPS is proposing to charge higher peak-season entrance fees are Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Ranier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion.

Great Smoky Mountains, by far the most-visited national park with more than 11 million visitors a year, is not on the list because it is one of the few parks that does not charge an entrance fee.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the portion of revenue from America the Beautiful passes that goes to Acadia.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.