WASHINGTON — The National Park Service is considering tripling its per-person entrance fee in the summer for Denali National Park and Preserve in response to a major backlog in federal funding for park upkeep.
The fee boost would begin in May 2018 at 17 parks nationwide as the park service faces a nearly $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects.
Denali currently charges $10 per person year-round for a seven-day entrance permit. An annual pass costs $40 and can be used by four people, according to the park service. Annual passes are available for parks nationwide, and discounts are available for military members, fourth-graders, seniors and volunteers.
The proposed new fees would be imposed during a five-month peak season, May 1 to Sept. 30 for Denali. The park service would charge $30 per person on bike or foot. The park service is also considering adjusting entrance fees for commercial tours. Other parks may see a $70-per-vehicle cost, but Denali would continue to only charge per person, according to Katherine Belcher, the park's public information officer.
The extra income would be used to repair facilities and infrastructure, "with an emphasis on deferred maintenance projects," the park service said in a press release Tuesday.
The park service estimates that the increased fees would boost national park revenue by $70 million a year over the $200 million it collected in fiscal year 2016. By law, 80 percent of park fees must be spent at the park where they are collected. The remaining 20 percent can be spent on other parts of the national park system.
"The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in the statement. "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 that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting."
The park service is accepting public comments on the plan through Nov. 23. Comments may be submitted online or in writing: National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C St. NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the NPS is considering a $70-per-vehicle charge at Denali National Park and Preserve. The NPS does not charge by the car-load in Denali, and that would remain true if the changes are approved. The new per-vehicle charges would occur in parks that currently charge per-car fees.