Fees can help address parks’ financial challenges, but Congress must continue to invest in our parks, helping support these amazing places that millions of Americans visit and enjoy each year.
This week, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash announced that the park is seeking public input on a proposed new parkwide vehicle parking fee.
The National Parks Conservation Association supports the park’s fee proposal considering Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s record-setting visitation year after year, and inadequate budget. The proposed fee is modest. ($15 for a weekly parking pass, $40 for an annual parking pass).
Equity at our national parks is of paramount importance, and regardless of means, everyone deserves the ability to visit and recreate on our public lands.
NPCA has taken a stand against unreasonable and exorbitant fee proposals in years past at parks across the country and will continue to evaluate new fee proposals with the highest degree of scrutiny and care.
For many years, the National Park Service has been operating on a limited budget, dealing with decreases in staffing and record-high numbers of park visitors, leaving too few park rangers to serve visitors and protect the treasures of the park system.
This issue is especially pronounced at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which continues to rank as the most-visited national park in the country. Unlike many other national parks, Great Smoky Mountains has never charged – and is not proposing – an entrance fee.
President Biden’s most recent budget proposal calls for a much-needed increase of nearly $342 million (a 10.5% increase) for the National Park Service. This is a big step forward to help address funding shortfalls for NPS, but more investment is needed by Congress to protect our national parks.
Statement of Jeff Hunter, Senior Program Manager for The National Parks Conservation Association:
“It comes as no surprise that Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been the most-visited park for several years running. The soaring views of the Blue Ridge and beautiful wildlife crisscrossing the park make this place so special and deserving of the popularity it enjoys. But like all of our national parks, the Smokies have been challenged to do more with less resources for a long time due to mounting costs, maintenance needs and inadequate budgets from Congress.
“We support park officials’ efforts to begin to tackle these needs by implementing a new modest fee for parking passes at the Smokies. The fees collected here will give back to park visitors, maintaining roadways and trails, and keeping them safe. Fees can help address parks’ financial challenges, but Congress must continue to invest in our parks, helping support these amazing places that millions of Americans visit and enjoy each year.”
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit *www.npca.org. *
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