Another new pilot program is in its first months. The federal government has agreed to give the National Parks half of the money they take in if the park fees are doubled. This program will run for three years.
It sounds like a great opportunity for the parks to make some improvements and for you to put your tax dollars to some good use. I have several reservations with this new system.
How long after the pilot program ends until congress decides that the parks are earning enough on their own? What happens to the small parks? If a park can't earn enough money what will happen? If funding is cut will these parks will dissapear?
Some parks can't charge entrance fees. If a highway runs through a park no fees can be charged. Are these the parks we want to see go without funds? When was the last time you heard of the price of camping fees going down? This pilot program has increased fees at 100 parks. Do you think the fees will return to normal when the program is over?
I have been to some nice Federal Parks in the last few months and have seen a few problems with this system. Campgrounds are not supposed to charge fees if there is no potable water. I have seen some pretty sad water sources in some campgrounds that used to be free. One place hauled in several large tanks on wheels and built a box around each tank to give it a rustic feel. The water tastes really rank after a long day in the sun - but they get money now! Many parks I visited were hurriedly building campsites (or more campsites) in hopes of cashing in on this program. Sure hope they don't run out of money before the end of the program! Park employees seemed far more concerned with fee collection than with public satisfaction.
Some areas are simply pricing themselves out of the camping market. To enter the Grand Canyon now costs $20.00 just to drive a car in. A campsite will run another $18.00. A one night stay will run you $38.00 not including firewood and ice. In Arizona, you can get a decent motel room for this amount!. Showers are available (for .75 a minute). This is no longer an affordable alternative for the family vacation. It would be nice if parks offered a discount camp rate to compensate for fees to enter the park. If you go to the Grand Canyon, you have to pay $20 bucks to get in and $100 bucks more for a motel or $18 bucks more for a campsite. This seems a bit unreasonable to me!If you find this a problem, please contact the guy pictured below. Just click on his face! Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman