According to an announcement posted on the National Park Service (NPS) website Oct. 24, the NPS is considering a proposal to increase entrance fees for the 17 most popular national parks in the U.S. to generate funding for much-needed infrastructural improvements to parks around the country. An initial public comment period through Nov. 22 was extended to Dec. 22. If the proposal is passed, the standard $25 to $30 entrance fee would be increased to $70. Among the parks affected would be popular California parks such as Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite and Joshua Tree.
These prices would apply to cars entering the park, while a $50 fee would be levied to visitors on motorcycles and a $30 fee to those entering on foot or by bicycle. However, this change would only affect parks during the busiest five months of visitation, or peak season, while there would be no change during the rest of the year. Peak season officially starts May 1 for Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Joshua Tree would see a price increase as soon as practicable.
With Cal Poly’s popular outdoor culture, this move would likely affect many students planning trips to these parks. However, if passed, the price hike has yet to go into effect for Joshua Tree, so outdoor enthusiasts planning a Christmas under the desert stars are in luck. Additionally, any trips to the other national parks wouldn’t be affected by the fee increase until May 1.
The effects of the potential fee increase on programs like Poly Escapes remains somewhat unclear. Physics sophomore and co-lead for Poly Escapes Lisa Swartz said the change would most likely increase costs for student trips if they visit during peak season.
“I imagine that we wouldn’t lead trips to those places anymore during those five months,” Swartz said. “Three of those months are over the summer anyway … [The price change] would lead to about $40 extra per car and about $8 extra per participant.”
Recreation, parks and tourism administration sophomore Bryce Oberhauser-Lim is a trip leader at Poly Escapes and said he thinks if anything would change, it’s Poly Escapes’ trip scheduling.
“Poly Escapes will factor in the population density of the parks and how many people will be there at a certain time to figure out the best times to go,” Oberhauser-Lin said. “If anything, I could see that happening.”
Recreation, parks and tourism administration department head Bill Hendricks said while the extra funds may be necessary, he thinks charging park visitors is not a fair way to raise the money.
“Additional funding is necessary to improve the infrastructure of the parks, but I don’t think the increase in price that’s passed onto the visitors is the way to go about it,” Hendricks said. “The problem with the fee increase is that it’s going to create a lack of social equity for the people who visit the parks.”
There are a slew of alternatives for the more frugal outdoor enthusiast. To name a few, Montaña de Oro, Estero Bluffs and Los Osos State Parks all lie less than 25 miles away from Cal Poly’s campus and offer camping, hiking, biking and more for little to no cost.