Bush administration raises park fees, advocates cry foul

The Bush administration is consistent-izing rates at 135 national parks, a move that will see some fees double. It will also tie future rates to inflation, raising them every three years. A National Park Service spokesperson says the shift is an attempt to simplify the current rate structure, bringing the types of fees from 17 to four, but parks advocates spy something sinister. “This absolutely is excluding Americans from visiting their public lands,” said Robert Funkhouser, president of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition. “The more you force the public away, the more you lose support for the parks.” Visits to the country’s 390 national parks and monuments fell from 287 million in 1999 to 273 million in 2006; attendance at Yosemite has fallen 20 percent since a 1997 fee increase. With hotel and food costs inside parks also rising, it’s getting tougher to get outside. “It just makes no sense,” says a Yosemite-area visitors’ bureau rep. “Poor families are going to be priced out of the market.”