Fees: Table of Contents
Results of Analysis
Visitor Fees in
the National Park System:
A Legislative and
ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL PARK
SERVICE RECREATION FEE SYSTEM
This paper examines entrance and user fees charged at areas in the
National Park System to determine whether or not they are equitable
and effective. Their revenue-producing potential is also investigated.
Revenues collected are returned to the Service to be used either for
fee collection purposes or for outdoor recreation. Several changes to
the existing fee system are analyzed and recommendations are made.
II. RECENT LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
Recreation fees were authorized in the 1972 amendments to the Land
and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 (P.L. 92-347). In
those amendments, Congress set the policy that
"Entrance or admission fees shall be charged . . . at designated units
of the National Park System. . . ."
"All fees established . . . shall be fair and equitable, taking into
consideration the direct and indirect cost to the Government, the benefits
to the recipient, the public policy or interest served, the comparable
recreation fees charged by non-Federal public agencies, the economic and
administrative feasibility of fee collection and other pertinent factors."
Other provisions specifically authorized included:
reasonable single-visit admission fees;
Golden Eagle Passports which cost $10 annually and allow admission
to any park by the purchaser and those accompanying him or her in a single,
private noncommercial vehicle;
Golden Age Passports which allow free entrance privileges and use
fee discounts to persons over 62;
the appropriation of all fee revenue to the collecting agency for
expenditure on any outdoor recreation function; and
other miscellaneous regulations on fee collection operations.
The intent of the Congress was
"Most members of the Committee believe that those people who are fortunat
eenough to be able to take the time to use and enjoy these areas ought to
be willing to help to some reasonable degree, to defray the cost of providing
them with these opportunities. No one wants to price anyone out of these
outdoor areas, but neither do they want to unduly burden those who never
visit such areas--either for economic or other reasons--with all of the
costs of making these areas and their related facilities available."
(H. Rept. # 92-742, p. 2827).
Congress clearly recognized that fees are a supplemental source of
revenue obtained from park users.
The Congress further amended the LWCF Act in 1973 (P.L. 93-81) to
provide for the following:
prohibitions on charging fees for areas or facilities which all
visitors might reasonably be expected to utilize, such as picnic areas,
drinking water, wayside exhibits, roads, trails, scenic drives and toilet
clarification of the definition of "single visit" to entrance fee
specific requirements for charging campground use fees which
eliminated fees at nearly all Federal campgrounds.
The revenue loss and other considerations resulted in a further amendment
to the LWCF Act (P.L. 93-303). Provisions included:
less stringent requirements for campground fees;
broader coverage for the Golden Eagle and Golden Age Passports to
include non-vehicle entrance; and
designation of the Golden Age Passport as a lifetime pass.