Park Service extends comment period for proposed fee hike

The National Park Service is giving people more time to weigh in on a proposed fee increase at 17 of its most popular parks, including Olympic National Park.

Visitors in a car would be charged $70 per vehicle, up from the current $25 fee for a visit of up to seven days, during the five busiest months of the year at the park, from May 1 through Sept. 30.

The new fees could apply to ONP as soon as May 2018.

The comment period had been scheduled to end Thursday. The new deadline is Dec. 22.

The Park Service said it wanted to accommodate interest from Congress and the public. More than 65,000 comments already have been submitted.

Among those are letters from local agencies such as the Port Angeles City Council, Clallam County commissioners and Port Angeles Business Association.

Most of the 17 parks slated for fee increases are in the West. In addition to Olympic National Park, they include Mount Rainier, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion.

The Park Service says it would raise $70 million annually under the proposal. The revenue would fund maintenance and infrastructure projects.

If the proposal moves forward, the fees would be $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.

The proposed increase follows a slight, phased-in increase undertaken by Olympic National Park beginning in 2015.

Tourism officials across the North Olympic Peninsula have expressed fears of what the steep increase proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration would do to the region’s businesses.

The park estimated last year that 3,390,221 people visited Olympic National Park and spent $286,786,300 in nearby communities.

That spending supported 3,842 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $398,689,900, according to the park.

The Washington delegation — Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer — have all spoken out against the fee increase.

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

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