The Interior Department has proposed more than doubling entrance fees at the Grand Canyon and several other national parks throughout the country. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, 90 members of Congress sent a letter this week to Secretary Ryan Zinke condemning the proposal.
The group of Democrats calls the plan misguided, and says the fee increase will make public lands inaccessible to lower-income and working families. They also worry the plan would threaten the economies of communities near national parks, where visitors spent $18.4 billion last year.
Arizona Democrat Tom O’Halleran authored the letter and has called on Congress to increase national park funding.
"Rural America, rural Arizona and rural parts of Arizona’s District 1 rely on tourism dollars. There’s been no indication from the National Park Service that they did any economic analysis on this or impact to our citizens," O'Halleran says.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed the fee hike to help pay for a more than $11.3 billion maintenance backlog within the Park Service. It would increase weekly access at 17 parks from $30 to $70 during peak seasons to pay for roads, bridges and other visitor services. A public comment period is open through Nov. 23, and the new fees would go into effect next year if approved.
In addition, the Trump administration has proposed slashing 13 percent from the National Park Service budget in 2018.