Democratic candidate for Colorado governor calls national parks fee increase ‘outrageous’
U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke recently proposed hiking summertime entrance fees at 17 of the nation’s most beloved federal parks to address aging infrastructure and pay for improvements to other visitor services, which Zinke says are badly needed.
Not everyone thinks charging more is the best way to ensure the future of the nation’s wildest public assets, and one of those critics to Zinke’s proposed fee increase at places like Yellowstone in Wyoming, Yosemite in California and Rocky Mountain National Park here in Colorado is Cary Kennedy, a Democrat who’s vying to become the state’s next governor.
According to Kennedy, the proposed hike that would more than double the current rate of $30 a carload at 17 national parks across the U.S. is out of line and tarnishes the spirit in which the parks system was originally created: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”
In response to the proposed fee increase, Kennedy took to Twitter, posting that “$70 per car for (Rocky Mountain National Park) is outrageous,” shortly after Zinke’s proposed increase was announced in an Oct. 24 news release.
“National Parks should be accessible to everyone,” she continued. “Raising entrance fees puts them out of reach to many.”
Kennedy finished her tweet by asking people to let Zinke know increasing park fees is “wrong for Colorado” and provided a link to the National Park Service’s website for public comments.
At the Summit Daily’s office on Wednesday, Kennedy had more time — and characters — to elaborate on her position and talk about what Colorado’s next governor can do to keep fees down.
“Our public lands and our parks are critical for the quality of life that we all love over here,” she said. “They are our greatest assets. They are treasures that we have to protect, and I have always — and always will — fight any policy coming out of Washington that would sell off public lands, but we need to make sure our parks are accessible to everyone.”
Kennedy said she thinks $70 is too steep a price for many Colorado families, and she sees high entry fees as a barrier preventing many of them from enjoying public land.
“Most people can’t afford that for a daily activity,” Kennedy explained, adding that as governor she would try to work with the federal government in a partnership to keep entry fees low.
“And if they won’t be our partner and they propose, as we’re seeing coming right now, policies that would really hurt Colorado, we fight them,” she said.
If implemented, the entrance fee would jump to $70 per private vehicle, $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person on bike or foot during the five-month peak season at each park.
According to the National Park Service, the hike would generate $70 million in additional funding for the nation’s parks, a 34 percent increase over the $200 million collected in 2016.
The vast majority of national parks — 299 out of 417 — charge no entrance fee at all, and the 17 parks that would be affected by Zinke’s proposed increase are Arcadia, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion and, of course, Rocky Mountain National Park.
The public comment period began Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 23. People may make their opinions known by going online to ParkPlanning.NPS.gov/ProposedPeakSeasonFeeRates or mailing comments to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, D.C. 20240.
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