Visitor numbers at US national parks are soaring, yet the government says a proposed price surge is for ‘maintenance’, while slashing federal funding by almost $300m
On an unseasonably grey Monday last month, steady drizzle did not deter visitors to Utah’s Arches national park. Long queues of traffic crept sluggishly past viewpoints; car parks filled to capacity forced hikers to give up on planned trails. Such frustrations are typical nowadays: Arches’ dramatic rock formations now draw more than double the visitors they did in 2000. And it’s not an isolated problem: the US National Park Service (NPS) reported more than 330 million visits in 2016 – 44 million more than at the turn of the century.
This could be the real reason for NPS’s announcement last week that it is considering surge pricing at 17 popular parks. Under the proposals, entry to Yosemite, Yellowstone and others would swell from the current $25-30 per vehicle, to $70 at peak times. Charges for motorcyclists and pedestrians would double.