A. CHANGES TO THE EXISTING RATE STRUCTURE
1. Entrance Fees
Entrance fee rates vary throughout indicated by the following table:
Currently, fee rates are established on a park-by-park basis. However, Systemwide criteria could be established for uniform fee rates, such as each park's operating budget or classification (national park, national monument, etc. ).
The following table indicates a possible rate structure based on the operating budget of each park:
With this rate structure and assuming that 95% of the visitors arrive by non-commercial vehicle where applicable, revenue would increase an estimated $1.8 million. Vehicle rates would increase at 24 parks and decrease at 4. Per person rates would increase at 16 parks and decrease at 1. (See Table III in the appendix for a park-by-park breakout).
If the rate structure were based on the entrance fee area's classification, rates could be established as follows:
Revenue would increase an estimated $3.9 million with this rate structure. Forty-two parks would have higher per vehicle rates. These parks are either national parks, national monuments or national seashores. Seventeen national parks would have higher per person rates. Rate decreases would occur only at Colonial NHP for entry by non-commercial vehicle and at Minute Man NHP for entry by bus, bike or on foot. (See Table IV In the appendix for individual park data).
Negative public reaction to a fee rate increase is not anticipated to be great if rate increases are reasonable. A recent study prepared for the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, "Evaluation of Public Willingness to Pay User Charges for Use of Outdoor Recreation Areas and Facilities," concluded from a public survey that rate increases would be acceptable to most visitors at public parks.
A survey will be conducted this summer in 43 areas of the National Park System, as part of BOR's Nationwide Outdoor Recreation Plan. It will ask park visitors if they support some method to supplement the shrinking Federal recreation dollar, including potential entrance fee increases. Results of this survey may be useful in deciding whether a rate increase will be accepted by visitors to areas in the National Park System.
Last April the National Park Service Advisory Board voted in favor of the principle of entrance and user fees to cover a portion of park operations and maintenance costs.
In the 1976 Fee Report, park personnel strongly favored the establishment of a multi-day entrance pass. This pass would be consistent with current NPS policy which encourages private enterprise to provide food and lodging outside park boundaries and discourages construction of such facilities within the parks. As mentioned previously, Congress is considering legislation which would authorize this type of passport.
Finally, consideration should also be given to eliminate entrance fees. This action would obviously provide equal treatment to all visitors at all parks. However, if these fees are eliminated, consideration should be given to the benefits of entrance fees. The primary benefit is the revenue produced by these fees ($10.6 million in 1976). This includes revenue from Golden Eagle Passport sales. These revenues are used to fund (1) fee collection costs (for entrance and user fees), (2) visitor transportation system planning and operations, and (3) exhibit and audiovisual facilities.
An important secondary benefit of entrance fee collection has been information provided the visitor at the entrance station. Information is provided to make visitors aware of all opportunities for enjoying the park, as well as to communicate a respect for park resources and to warn of dangers that may exist. Two other "fringe" benefits of the fee program are less vandalism as well as better care of facilities and park resources by visitors.
For Systemwide uniformity and equity to visitors, entrance fees should be estabished on the basis of park operating budgets, park classification or some other Systemwide criteria. No general change in entrance fees has been initiated since 1972. The suggested change does not exceed the current ceiling listed in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which sets the single-visit vehicle entrance rate ceiling at $3.00 and the individual entrance rate ceiling at $1.50. This is solely a regulatory ceiling and does not involve legislation. Any fee change that exceeds this ceiling would require posting in the Federal Register and 30 day public review. Changes should also be discussed with the appropriate Congressional Committees beforehand.
In addition, the Service should recommend the Administration support legislation to establish a multi-day entrance pass with a reasonable fee.
2. User Fees
As stated in Section IV, there is considerable range in user fee rates. Camping fees differ the most, ranging from no charge to $4 per night. The following table indicates the number of campgrounds and campsites for which various fee rates are charged.
Average campsite fee: $2.44 per night
The quality of services and facilities at campgrounds also varies widely from park to park.
A uniform and equitable rate structure, on a park-by-park basis, is needed for camping as well as for certain kinds of tours, elevator service, and backcountry use. User fee rates and services should be evaluated and recommendations for each park made for implementing a more uniform, equitable rate structure based on the cost of providing services and facilities. Fee rates for camping and certain tours should be in line with rates for similar commercial services in close proximity to parks. Fee rate increases for camping should not exceed the $4 ceiling listed in the Code of Federal Regulations without revision.
B. BETTER COVERAGE OF VISITORS TO FEE PARKS
A third of the 116 parks currently charging fees reported potential to collect more fees by extending the collection season and hours. Many noted that this would cost more in staffing dollars, but that increased revenues would more than off-set costs. Several parks also stated that new or improved collection facilities would facilitate more effective operations. Extension of collection coverage would also result in a more equitable fee system.
Each park's collection season and hours should be examined with regard to visitation patterns, services provided, and cost of collecting fees. Extensions of collection seasons and hours should be implemented where justified.
C. POTENTIAL FEES
The Service could increase revenue by charging user fees for services now provided free or by establishing entrance fees where they are not now charged. This would also provide greater uniformity through-outthe System.
1. Entrance Fees
In the 1976 fee reports from the parks, most reported no potential for establishing new entrance fees. Some gave reasons including inability to control access, legislative restrictions, and limited facilities. Others did not comment. Parks which reported potential for charging new entrance fees are shown in the following table:
PARKS WHICH REPORTED POTENTIAL FOR ENTRANCE FEES
Implementation of fees at these parks should be favorably considered. Inquiries should be made at those that did not comment to see if fee potential exists. Furthermore, the Planning Process should be re vised to include an evaluation of whether fees should be charged.
2. User Fees
In the 1976 Fee Report, the parks identified 23 potential user fees and 5 potential special recreation permits for which fees could be charged. Specifically for user fees these include:
Many parks reported that funds would be required to upgrade facilities and cover collection costs. Insufficient information exists to pro vide reasonable estimates of additional revenue or whether these fees would be cost-effective. (See Table V in the appendix for details).
Congress has set policy for user fees and special recreation permits. The House Report to the LWCF 1972 amendments states:
"It seems so abundantly clear as to be almost axiomatic:
Special recreation permits may also carry a user fee for "group activities, recreation events, motorized recreation vehicles, and other specialized recreation uses . . . ." (P.L. 92-347).
However, there are several legal restrictions on charging user fees. User fees may not be charged for certain facilities used by the general public. Camping fees may be charged only if certain facilities and services are provided. (See Section II for details).
In view of the legislative restrictions and limited data, each potential user fee and special recreation permit should be investigated separately for cost-effectiveness, additional capital investment, and staffing requirements. The potential for charging a user fee, such as parking, at those parks where access control prevents the implementation of an entrance fee should also be considered.
D. COVERING COLLECTION COSTS
The method of calculating fee collection costs vary from park to park. There are no standard guidelines used for calculating costs. This has resulted In difficulties in determining how much revenue should be returned to parks to cover costs. Thus, some parks may be receiving more than enough, others less. For those parks which receive less than enough to cover costs, fee collection is a burden.
A number of changes have been suggested which would alleviate this burden or even provide a positive incentive to collect fees. These suggestions range from covering collection costs to returning all money collected to the parks which collect it. One suggestion is that a portion (e.g., 50%) of the fees collected be returned to fee parks with the remainder to be used for Servicewide needs.
The Service should establish standards for determining collection costs and then guarantee reimbursement for all these costs. Such standards would ensure that all parks were using the same method when determining fee collection costs. Guaranteeing a fair reimburse ment would assure that fee collection is not a burden to other park programs.
The Service has serious reservations about the feasibility of returning fee revenue to parks on any arbitrary basis. Such a system fails to take into account several important factors:
These drawbacks severely limit the usefulness of this optional method of returning fee revenue. If the policy objective is to collect more revenue equitably, then recommendations contained in this paper would accomplish that objective more effectively than would returning fees on a proportional basis.
ENTRANCE FEE PARKS
ENTRANCE FEE PARKS
*Could be implemented as Special Recreation Permits.