Port Angeles City Council to draft letter against park fee hike

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council will consider a letter urging the federal government to reconsider raising entrance fees at Olympic National Park from $25 to $70 per vehicle.

The council directed staff to prepare the letter at its Nov. 7 meeting and will consider approving the draft Tuesday.

The National Park Service is considering fee hikes at 17 highly visited parks during peak tourist seasons to generate revenue for improvements to aging infrastructure such as roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines and bathrooms, officials said in an Oct. 24 announcement.

At Olympic, the $70-per-vehicle fee would be in place from May 1 through Sept. 30.

Port Angeles Mayor Patrick Downie said vendors and citizens had raised concerns about the effects the proposed fee increases would have on visitation and the local economy.

“Our lodging tax dollars will go down,” Downie said.

“Jobs, I think, would clearly be lost.”

Downie said Congress has underfunded the National Park Service and that there is merit to a conversation about a less exorbitant fee increase.

“They’ve said, ‘We just need more money to take care of the parks,’ ” Downie said.

“And also, they’ve gotten their budget cut from the feds,” Councilwoman Sissi Bruch said.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, has tried unsuccessfully to find ways to fund national parks without significant increases to entrance fees, Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd said.

City Manager Dan McKeen said the letter would acknowledge the need for NPS to provide maintenance and infrastructure.

“We’ll do it in a very respectful manner, but also voice our concern the way it’s proposed and what it could do to our local economy,” McKeen said.

Clallam County commissioners also will consider sending a letter to the National Park Service about the proposed fee hikes Tuesday.

The Park Service is accepting public comment on the proposal through Nov. 23.

The public can comment online at parkplanning.nps.gov or by mailing written comments to National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C St. NW, Mail Stop: 2346, Washington, DC 20240.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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