The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Denali National Park:
"The National Park Service (NPS) is examining approaches to recover more of the cost of the mountaineering program in Denali National Park and Preserve. As part of the public involvement process, the NPS is hosting two public open houses in December and two in January to provide information on the mountaineering program and how the special mountaineering use fee is utilized. The cities, dates, locations, and times of the open houses are:
Talkeetna, Alaska, Tuesday, December 7, Talkeetna Ranger Station, 5:00 7:00 p.m.
Anchorage, Alaska Wednesday, December 8, REI, 1200 W. Northern Lights Blvd., 5:00 7:00 p.m.
Seattle, Washington Monday, January 17, REI Flagship Store, 222 Yale Ave. N, 6:00 8:00 p.m.
Golden, Colorado Tuesday, January 18, American Mountaineering Center, 710 10th St., 6:00 8:00 p.m.
Park staff will give two 20 minute presentations on the mountaineering program and fee at each open house, beginning at 15 minutes after the hour. Official public testimony will not be taken, but park staff will be available before and after the presentations to provide additional information and answer questions.
Currently each climber of Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker pays a cost recovery mountaineering use fee of $200. Income from this special use fee funds some of the cost of the mountaineering program, including preventative search and rescue (PSAR) education, training for rescue personnel, positioning of patrol/rescue personnel (including volunteers) at critical high altitude locations on the mountain, the CMC (human waste) program, and administrative support. Since the cost recovery fee was implemented in 1995, the number of fatalities and major injuries has decreased significantly. This is directly attributable to the increased educational and PSAR efforts made possible through the cost recovery program.
When the special use fee was initially established it covered approximately 30% of the cost of this specialized program. Even though the fee was increased from $150 to $200 in 2005, current fee revenue only covers 17% of the cost. McKinley/Foraker climbers make up less than 1⁄2 of 1 percent of the parks visitors, and in 2011 Denali will expend approximately $1,200 in direct support of each permitted climber. The average cost for all other visitors is expected to be about $37. In recent years, the park has diverted funds from other critical park programs in order to fully fund the mountaineering program. This has negatively impacted funding available for interpretation, wildlife protection, resource management, and maintenance.
The NPS is seeking input and ideas regarding two key questions:
1) Is the current mountaineering program the most cost effective, efficient and safe program we can devise?
2) How much of the cost should be recovered from users, and what options are there for how those costs can be distributed?
Comments from the public will be accepted through January 31, 2011.
Comments may be submitted via email to: DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov or faxed to (907) 683-9612. They may also be sent to: Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755.
For additional information on the mountaineering program or the cost recovery special use fee visit the park website at www. nps.gov/dena. If you have questions about the fee you may contact Chief Park Ranger Peter Armington at (907) 683-9521 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Media inquiries should be directed to Public Affairs Officer Kris Fister at (907) 683-9583 or email@example.com."
We have written about this issue on the American Alpine Institute blog and have come up with a handful of comments that could help you to counter this proposal if you would like to send in comments. To learn more about Denali fee issues, please click here.