Peak season fees to remain less than originally proposed

By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – On April 12, the National Park Service announced that Yellowstone National Park will increase its entrance fees, though to a much lesser degree than originally proposed.

Effective June 1, the park entrance fee will increase from $30 to $35 per vehicle or from $25 to $30 per motorcycle, good for seven days. This new charge will remain in effect year-round.

An annual park pass will increase from $60 to $70, while the price of the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

As of the April 12 announcement, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have not yet determined how this new pricing structure will affect the combined parks’ seven-day entrance pass.

Last October, NPS proposed a plan to adopt seasonal pricing at Yellowstone and 16 other national parks to raise additional revenue for infrastructure and maintenance needs. The initial proposal was to more than double entrance fees at these national parks. However, in response to the public outcry over the fee hike, the agency abandoned the original fee structure, opting to increase entrance fees by only a few dollars.

A release sent by Yellowstone’s Office of Strategic Communications stated that the new fee structure “addresses many concerns and ideas provided by the public on how best to address fee revenue for parks.”

In Yellowstone, 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park and are used for maintenance and infrastructure. The remaining 20 percent is used at other national parks, many of which do not charge for admission.

“Yellowstone uses revenues from entrance fees collected to improve visitor facilities,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk in the release. “Visitors benefit when park roads, trails and boardwalks are maintained and provide access to the park’s treasures.”

National parks across the U.S. have experienced record-breaking visitation in recent years, which puts a strain on many of the parks’ aging infrastructure. Maintenance deferred on facilities like roads, bridges, buildings, campgrounds, water systems and bathrooms amounts to an $11.6 billion nationwide backlog.

During the 2016 fiscal year, entrance fees collected by the NPS totaled $199.9 million. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.

Yellowstone National Park has had an entrance fee since 1916, at which time seasonal auto permits were available for $10, roughly an equivalent of $230 today.