November 01, 2017

Warner & Kaine To Trump Administration: Rethink Fee Increases For National Park Visitors

~ Point to bipartisan legislation as solution to address the long-term park maintenance backlog ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged the Trump Administration to reconsider dramatic entrance fee increases that the Department of Interior has proposed at 17 iconic national parks across the United States. In Virginia, this proposal would increase fees at Shenandoah National Park to $70 per vehicle during peak season. In a letter to Secretary Ryan Zinke, the senators instead offered bipartisan legislation they introduced earlier this year as a solution to address the long-term national park maintenance backlog, which is estimated to be at $11.3 billion.

“These fee increases, many of which are two-to-three times that of current levels, could price out many of our constituents and other individuals and families across the country from visiting these national treasures….we do not believe that shifting the burden to our park visitors in the form of significant fee increases is an appropriate or practical way to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog,” said the senators.

The National Park Service Legacy Act would help eradicate the maintenance backlog at the Park Service by directing existing revenues from mineral royalties toward high-priority deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service, including investing in critical NPS infrastructure like Arlington Memorial Bridge.

“This bipartisan legislation would help repair and restore the aging and deteriorating infrastructure of our national parks and ensure that these treasure are preserved for future generations to enjoy. It would allow the Park Service to reduce its maintenance backlog without having to significantly increase the cost of admittance for visitors of our national parks,” the senators added.

The full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

October 31, 2017

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary

Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write today in response to the National Park Service’s proposal to sharply increase entrance fees at 17 of our most iconic national parks across the United States – including at Shenandoah National Park in our home state of Virginia. These fee increases, many of which are two-to-three times that of current levels, could price out many of our constituents and other individuals and families across the country from visiting these national treasures. We urge you to reconsider these dramatic fee increases and recommend that you pursue alternative pathways to raise revenue at the Park Service to reduce the growing maintenance backlog.

We wholeheartedly agree that significant steps must be taken to address the maintenance backlog at the Park Service, which is currently estimated at $11.3 billion. However, we do not believe that shifting the burden to our park visitors in the form of significant fee increases is an appropriate or practical way to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog. In fact, the Park Service has estimated that the fee increases, once implemented, would only increase park revenue by $70 million per year. Even if this additional revenue was allocated solely to address the maintenance backlog, it would only represent a fraction of the Park Service’s deferred maintenance needs in Virginia ($750.6 million), much less the nationwide total. At the same time, the proposed fee increases could dramatically impact the ability of individuals to access these lands.

Under your proposal, the peak-season entrance fee would be $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per individual person. To access Shenandoah National Park, individuals would face a threefold increase in the price of admittance from $10 to $30, while the fee for motorcyclists would more than double from $20 to $50, and individuals with private vehicles would face a $35 increase. If these fee increases were to go into effect, it would have a significant impact on the ability of our constituents and other visitors to access one of Virginia’s most beautiful and cherished areas.

Here in the Senate, we have partnered with a bipartisan group of our colleagues to introduce legislation that would reduce the $11.3 billion maintenance backlog at the Park Service in a fiscally responsible way that would not shift the cost burden to park goers. Our bill, the National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017, would help eradicate the maintenance backlog at the Park Service by establishing a dedicated fund at the U.S. Treasury – named the “National Park Service Legacy Fund” – that would direct revenues from mineral royalties that are not otherwise designated by law to other purposes toward high-priority deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service. Over the next 30 years, this fund will provide more than $11 billion to deferred maintenance projects, addressing the highest priority areas as identified by the Park Service itself. The bill also includes a philanthropic component that prioritizes projects that can receive private matching dollars.

This bipartisan legislation would help repair and restore the aging and deteriorating infrastructure of our national parks and ensure that these treasure are preserved for future generations to enjoy. It would allow the Park Service to reduce its maintenance backlog without having to significantly increase the cost of admittance for visitors of our national parks. We urge you to withdraw your proposal that would dramatically increase entrance fees at 17 national parks across the nation and encourage you to support our legislation that would create a dedicated fund to address the maintenance backlog issue at the National Park Service.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,                                                                                                                     

Mark R. Warner                                                                     

United States Senator                                                    

Tim Kaine

United States Senator

###