Too many Americans are able to access the country's national parks for free, says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and this must end if the U.S. wishes to address the parks' aging and otherwise declining infrastructure.
Who gets into national parks for free? Veterans, disabled Americans, senior citizens, and children.
"When you give discounted or free passes to elderly, fourth graders, veterans, disabled, and you do it by the carload, there's not a whole lot of people who actually pay at our front door," Zinke said. "So, we're looking at ways to make sure we have more revenue in the front door of our parks themselves."
Zinke assured the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday that he would not impose new fees on veterans, but he did propose raising vehicle fees from at some of the busier national parks, such as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Zion, which currently charge between $20 and $30 per car.
Zinke’s proposal would raise that fee to $70 per car. He is also looking at possibly charging each individual an entrance fee rather than paying per car.
"Basically, one person with a pass, everyone in that car comes in free," Zinke said. "Now, whether or not that's correct, we're looking at it."
The Hill reports that national parks currently face an $11.7 billion maintenance backlog.