There are better ways to fund national parks than an exorbitant fee increase proposed by the Trump administration. Washingtonians should submit opposition to this noxious plan during a public-comment period.
Washingtonians should oppose a bad proposal by the National Park Service to roughly triple the cost of entering Mount Rainier, Olympic and 15 other parks in the system.
There are far better options to fund parks and their maintenance backlog, including a bipartisan proposal in Congress to fund them with proceeds from mining on other federal lands.
As with other rank proposals by the Trump administration, there may be other motives at play, which is all the more reason to reject this one.
Oppose fee hike
Members of the public have until Nov. 23 to weigh in on the Trump administration’s wrongheaded proposal to hike national park admission fees to exorbitant levels.
Submit opposition to the fee increase during a comment period at: st.news/parkfees
The proposal would increase peak-season entrance fees from $25 per car to $70 and from $10 to $30 for those on foot or bike. Motorcycle fees would increase from $20 to $50.
Americans should not be charged such prices to visit parks they own. As President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The fundamental idea behind the parks … is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of the people.”
Maintenance costs are significant. But that’s a red herring when used in times of prosperity to justify price hikes and privatization at any park, federal or local. Funding parks is a core government service that can be done without making public spaces more expensive and less accessible.
Washington is deeply involved. The first such fees were imposed at Mount Rainier in 1914 to fund road construction.
Members of the state delegation are on the right track. U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Dave Reichert, R-Covington, co-sponsored the National Park Service Legacy Act in May.
The bill would provide substantial and lasting revenue by dedicating a portion of federal mineral proceeds to parks. It would generate $50 million to start and rise eventually to $500 million a year.
Reichert said parks need more revenue for maintenance and to protect trails and habitat from increasing numbers of visitors.
“But this should not happen at the expense of low to middle-income families who want to experience our national park system,” he said in a statement. His office said he’ll raise this concern directly with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former House colleague.
The fee increase would generate $70 million a year, unless it drives down attendance. The 17 affected parks would see funding increases averaging under $4 million, after fees are divvied up. The overall federal budget is $4 trillion.
Zinke said last summer that Congress should prioritize parks funding. Why not let Congress do this before proposing a punitive fee increase?
Perhaps it’s another ploy.
We’re starting to see a negotiation pattern. Trump floats obnoxious proposals that inflame Democrats. Each gives him a political chit he can use to bargain for something of greater monetary value.
House Speaker Paul Ryan recently admitted Trump’s call to deport 2 million immigrants eligible for “Dreamer” admittance is part of budget negotiations. So Trump is using concern about these vulnerable people to extract tax cuts worth perhaps $1 trillion and falling heavily on 120 million working-class Americans.
Is it a coincidence that exorbitant park fees were proposed as Zinke and Trump seek to lease vast swaths of public land for mining and drilling? Compared to the leases, the fees’ value is insignificant.
Take this fee proposal off the table. There are better ways to fund parks without gouging Americans and jerking us around.