National park-goers react to proposed fee increase

KING 5's Alison Morrow reports.

The closest national park to KING 5 is the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park near Pioneer Square. Visitors learn about the pursuit of gold, but the ones we spoke with Wednesday don't see anything golden about paying more for the country's most popular parks.

"Us, we wouldn't do that, which would be really tragic because our grandchildren and great-grandchildren would miss out," Laura Petricko said.

Laura and Skip Petricko believe the fee increase would be too much for people on fixed incomes, like senior citizens.

The National Park Service is floating a steep increase to entrance fees at 17 of its most popular sites next year. Visitors would be charged $70 per vehicle during peak season, up from the current $25 fee.

Motorcycles would be charged $50, and individuals on foot or bike would be charged $30.

A 30-day public comment period opened Tuesday.

The proposal comes less than two years after many of the parks that charge entrance fees became more costly. The rationale is the same this time around: to address a maintenance backlog and infrastructure projects.

The Park Service says it expects to raise $70 million a year with the latest proposal for parks mostly in the West.

The higher fees would apply during the five busiest, contiguous months. Peak season would be June through October at Mount Rainier and May through September at Olympic.

The DeMaris brothers say it's more about the principle that public land shouldn't cost anything to see.

"That is going to exclude people from visiting land held in trust for the people, so that doesn't make sense," Richard DeMaris said.

And then there are international tourists with unfavorable exchange rates who will pay even more, like the Chandler family.

"Do you go to a park if the price triples? I guess you have to look at if it's highly recommended, a lot of history, if it's a beautiful spot, then you kind of plan around it?" Nick Chandler said.

The Chandlers say they'd consider visiting Rainier National Park with the fee increase, but they'd have to cut their budget somewhere else.

The Petrickos say they likely just won't go.

"Then they charge you for camping, each place that you want to go for camping on top of that. A lot of people are not going to pay that. A week's vacation will be too expensive for anyone to do, well except for the wealthy," Petricko said.

© 2017 KING-TV


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