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Mike_Gauthier

SF Chronicle Opin on NPS fees

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I'm curious what others think of this opinion in the SF Chronicle.

 

 

 

OPINION

It shouldn't be cheap to experience national parks

By Debra J. Saunders

San Francisco Chronicle Columnist

 

When Barack Obama was 11, his mother and grandmother took him and his half-sister Maya on the most American of family vacations - a road trip that included Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Recently, Obama passed on that gift as he took his wife, daughters Malia and Sasha - as well as Maya and her family - on a four-day trip to two of America's most breathtaking national parks.

 

"It was nice the entire family was there," National Park Service spokesman Gerry Gaumer noted - not just the immediate family, but the extended family. "Rather than a presidential visit, it seemed more like a vacation."

 

Cynics may observe that the geyser and canyon photo ops provided middle-American balance to the Obamas' summer vacation, a weeklong retreat on the tony Martha's Vineyard. Who cares? It's always a plus when elected officials spend time in an environment where mountains dwarf their accomplishments, they can't dictate what happens in front of them and the wildlife is indifferent to their status.

 

According to some reports, visits to America's 391 national parks - the list also includes Washington's National Mall and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area - are down, and couch-potato syndrome is to blame.

 

Gaumer produced statistics that show, yes, visits were down to 274 million last year from highs of 287 million visits in 1999 and 1987, but they've also risen, as park attendance is "cyclical" and subject to changing travel patterns.

 

Some things don't change in Yellowstone. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer had some sage advice for Obama on his trip to Old Faithful. As the Democratic governor told The Associated Press, he advised Obama "to watch his kids' faces and not the geyser, and you will never forget the expression on their faces when that thing goes off."

 

The same can be said for a teen's first look at a moose with two calves or a toddler's sighting of a mountain goat at the side of Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road.

 

For adults, there is the quiet pleasure of watching time stand still as the sun sinks behind a snow-kissed ridge.

 

Enough already. I can write about sights and sunsets for only so long. So I move to the familiar territory of policy dispute, this time: How should Americans pay to maintain the parks?

 

The National Park Service annual budget is around $2.3 billion - with a mere $186 million coming from entrance and campground fees, according to the NPS' Brandon Flint. Many parks are free. The most expensive parks charge a per car fee - e.g., $25 at Yellowstone for a week.

 

Seniors can get a lifetime pass for $10.

 

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar launched the system's first fee-free weekends this year. The last of three ended Sunday. The idea was to give financially strapped families some economic relief - and as far as that goes, the idea worked fine, although a purist would argue that the parks should be charging more for the sort of destinations people spend a lot to reach, not less.

 

Entrance to Yellowstone should cost a family more than a night at the movies. As for the lifetime senior pass, it's a boondoggle and should be eliminated. Let retirees pay what parents with young kids have to scrape together. I don't think many families would complain. For one thing, they'd be too relaxed.

 

Contact San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.

 

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What a crock. Basically, let's make it so pricey that no one can afford it and that way we'll preserve it.

 

Just fund the parks already and quit trying to lock everyone out.

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A purist would argue that society would be better served by more people experiencing wilderness and nature, not having it hoarded by protectionists via massive fees.

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A purist would argue that society would be better served by more people experiencing wilderness and nature, not having it hoarded by protectionists via massive fees.

 

Exactly, SS. Debra J. Saunders is full of crap.

 

a purist would argue that the parks should be charging more for the sort of destinations people spend a lot to reach, not less.

 

Purists like this need to stay the hell away from me.

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This editorial disgusts me. There are so many health/psychological benefits to experiencing the wonders of nature, let alone a greater appreciation for respecting the environment.

 

You want to reduce healthcare costs? Encourage people to play in natl parks.

 

And for arguing over the 100M of park fees.. that's chump change compared to our overall spending.

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I agree the artical blows. However it is true about the experience of kids seeing things for the first time.

 

I will agree why do old people get a price break? Everybody should be getting screwed over the same.

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besides didn't the old folks already get their chance to see the parks for free before fees were put into place? they should be charged MORE, not less! LOL

 

seriously though, yeah that article is wack. saying because the park "experience" is more awesome than a movie, and therefore merits a higher admission fee is like charging more for love, just because it is "true" love.

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Yes, what Debra is saying is that we should let a poor mother of 3, who's husband died due to an inoperable brain tumor, and yet she will not take welfare because she is too proud, lets make that bitch pay the same to get into the park as the wealthy guy with the offshore corporations he doesn't pay tax on as he drives his 2 month old Jaguar up to the Awahanee.

 

Fu*k the poor. Fu*k em all. Let them move back to where ever they came from. Our country should be for the wealthy and for those who can pay their way.

 

 

Way to go Debra! Proud words.

 

not.

 

 

Ya come off like an elitist Bitch Debra. God forbid some bad thing befalls you and you have to pay the same as the rich dude. I can totally imagine your same self-serving howls of protest then as your broke, downtrodden, self-serving, self-centered ass argues the other side of the issue.

 

For myself, I can pay any fee they come up with no trouble. I will continue to just fly to Paris and hang out if I want to get away- any fee increase is not an issue to me except I will see less widowed mothers with children to disturb MY solitude, but your ME FIRST ME FIRST ME FIRST ME FIRST f*uck everyone else attitude is disturbing as hell to me as you think everyone has the same resources which you obviously do. Show some humanity and think of others! Bitch.

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Yes, what Debra is saying is that we should let a poor mother of 3 or 4, who's husband died due to an inoperable brain tumor, and yet she will not take welfare because she is too proud, lets make that bitch pay the same to get into the park as the wealthy guy with the offshore corporations he doesn't pay tax on as he drives his 2 month old Jaguar up to the Awahanee.

 

How the hell is this hypothetical mother of 3 or 4 able to afford to pay for the gas to fill up her gas tank to drive to the park (yet alone the cost of owning and maintaining her vehicle) and not afford an entrance fee that is a fraction of that cost? It's a bullshit scenario you are constructing, Bill.

 

A modest park fee is not a big deal, IMO. I'd prefer there were no fees to see our parks since federal taxes should cover this, but the hystrionics in this thread are laughable.

 

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well whatever. i was bitching about park fees last month.

 

some people go off when you try to take away their guns, others go off when you try to charge them to access their own land. different strokes, different folks.

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How the hell is this hypothetical mother of 3 or 4 able to afford to pay for the gas to fill up her gas tank to drive to the park (yet alone the cost of owning and maintaining her vehicle) and not afford an entrance fee that is a fraction of that cost? It's a bullshit scenario you are constructing, Bill.

 

A modest park fee is not a big deal, IMO. I'd prefer there were no fees to see our parks since federal taxes should cover this, but the hystrionics in this thread are laughable.

 

I'm strictly talking about my mother after my father died of a brain tumor. With my brothers and mother - I've been to lots of National Parks and campgrounds when were were...cough* cough* between homes. My wife refers to it as a homeless period, yet we were not homeless as long as we were self-sufficient, had each other, and had that canvas roof to keep us dry. If you are not paying rent and living in the woods, the gas price, although not to be ignored, is negligible. I have met plenty of others in similar circumstances as well. If you want to pay extra, nothing is stopping you. You're rich, flip them a $50. I believe, like you say in your last paragraph, that our taxes should be covering the bulk of the cost. As far as "histrionics", I can only say that the ME FIRST or ME ONLY attitude I see exibited by Debra and other places, is very very disturbing and troubling to me as a citizen and I see that attitude increasing as time goes on. It portends bad for the country and our children's heritage I am afraid.

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I don't mind user fees for National Parks as much as I do to use Forest Circus land. You'd think the coin that the FS makes from mining and logging companies could at least cover the cost of some trail maintenance and a shitter here and there. On the other hand, if less land was available for resource extraction I'd be happy to pay more on the recreation / user end of things.

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Pete, I totally agree with you, I think there is definetly a place for fees regarding the NPS, being the gems that the parks are, the fees keep matinence and manegment healthy, and somewhat reduces traffic -- although I would like to see some kind of reduced price or free 3 day pass available to people/families who financilly qualify.

It would be cool to develop a volunteer trail crew group program with a few paid supervisors, and reward their work with park entry benifits, that way needed trail work gets done (e.g. ipsut creek trail), and the people involved in the work have a rewarding and qualilty exprience. I have often wanted to spend a few days volunteering with a pick and shovel to help maintain trails, clean trash etc...

 

 

Edited by danhelmstadter

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well whatever. i was bitching about park fees last month.

 

I bitched about the Canadian park fees which are much higher than ours.

 

Again, I think taxes should cover entrance fees, but not necessarily usage fees. Should the park service cover shuttles as well? Campground fees, etc? Maybe the lodges should be "free" to? The cost to visit parks and even most usage fees are really not that high.

 

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Pete, I totally agree with you, I think there is definetly a place for fees regarding the NPS, being the gems that the parks are, the fees keep matinence and manegment healthy, and somewhat reduces traffic -- although I would like to see some kind of reduced price or free 3 day pass available to people/families who financilly qualify.

It would be cool to develop a volunteer trail crew group program with a few paid supervisors, and reward their work with park entry benifits, that way needed trail work gets done, and the people involved in the work have a rewarding and qualilty exprience. I have often wanted to spend a few days volunteering with a pick and shovel to help maintain trails, clean trash etc...

 

 

A few years ago I helped volunteer at MRNP doing meadow restoration at an old (50's era?) car/RV-campground near Sunrise. It was a great day, and I really enjoyed it.

 

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Yes, what Debra is saying is that we should let a poor mother of 3 or 4, who's husband died due to an inoperable brain tumor, and yet she will not take welfare because she is too proud, lets make that bitch pay the same to get into the park as the wealthy guy with the offshore corporations he doesn't pay tax on as he drives his 2 month old Jaguar up to the Awahanee.

 

How the hell is this hypothetical mother of 3 or 4 able to afford to pay for the gas to fill up her gas tank to drive to the park (yet alone the cost of owning and maintaining her vehicle) and not afford an entrance fee that is a fraction of that cost? It's a bullshit scenario you are constructing, Bill.

 

No, your argument is crap. I'll respond to it by suggesting that we have a 50% pollution tax per car bought, because if you would already have the money to pay $10K for a new car, you'd be able to afford the extra $5K.

 

The fact is that people are strapped on money just to fill their tanks w/ gas for a family vacation.. so why make it harder for them with park fees?

 

Unless.. the elite don't want to see poor people in national parks..

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this article is total crap. the fees and permits for public lands drive me nuts and i specifically avoid going to these places because there are still tons of great options that don't have the stupid hoops and planning to jump through. national parks too, i hate all the different regs and fees to keep track of, especially when all i want to to back-country camp -- and even more especially when you are required to stay at the backcountry location you have signed up for ahead of time. gives no freedom to adjust to conditions or whatever.

 

if there ever was a schizo government agency it is the USDA.. the forest service's own mission statement is riddled with contradictory statements. it should just say utilitarian use, and be clear that outdoor citizen's uses and economic extraction activities will converge at many places. trail maintenance and trailhead crapper costs are piddly compared to building a road for logging. while there are employees of the FS i respect, i have little respect for the agency. the utilitarian balance between extraction uses and protection/recreational is not a balance..it is quite unequal. most of the pcnw looks like green swiss cheese from the air.

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No, your argument is crap. I'll respond to it by suggesting that we have a 50% pollution tax per car bought, because if you would already have the money to pay $10K for a new car, you'd be able to afford the extra $5K.

 

The fact is that people are strapped on money just to fill their tanks w/ gas for a family vacation.. so why make it harder for them with park fees?

 

Unless.. the elite don't want to see poor people in national parks..

 

The "elite" - talk about an argument full of crap.

:fahq:

 

What percentage of the population do you actually think can not afford to visit a national park due to the entrance fee AND would visit if the fees were eliminated.

 

And, I highly doubt that any "elite" choose NPs over more "suitable" vacation spots for their tastes and lifestyle.

 

 

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This is the quote that interested me:

 

"Entrance to Yellowstone should cost a family more than a night at the movies."

 

He is making a comparison between private versus public. They are not to be compared.

 

The park service budget could be higher...but then the defense department budget would have to to be lower...we make choices as a national community.

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What percentage of the population do you actually think can not afford to visit a national park due to the entrance fee AND would visit if the fees were eliminated.

 

I don't think it's so white and black as that. I think fees have a chilling effect.

 

What bothers me is that it's in the best interest of this nation to promote national park visitation, so why stifle it with fees?

 

It's like the old arguments regarding licensing bicycles/bicyclists/pedestrians...

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"Entrance to Yellowstone should cost a family more than a night at the movies."

 

He is making a comparison between private versus public. They are not to be compared.

 

If the sole purpose is to earn revenue, then they should be compared.

But that is not why we have national parks. It is a sad day when national parks exist primarily to earn revenue.

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This is the quote that interested me:

 

"Entrance to Yellowstone should cost a family more than a night at the movies."

 

He is making a comparison between private versus public. They are not to be compared.

 

The park service budget could be higher...but then the defense department budget would have to to be lower...we make choices as a national community.

 

I think the comment is related to families willing to shell out more money on a night at the movies or, say, a take-out pizza but then complaining that it costs $25 to visit Yellowstone for a week. A comment to put things in perspective, and, probably bitch-slap the average American consumer.

 

You could double or triple the budge to the NPS and hardly make a dent in the military budget with cuts.

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But that is not why we have national parks. It is a sad day when national parks exist primarily to earn revenue.

 

It costs money to maintain each park and its facilities:

 

1) maintain and plow roads,

2) upkeep of buildings

3) pay staff

4) clean up garbage left by visitors

5) restore damage from visitors (e.g. meadow restoration)

etc. etc. etc

 

I doubt any fee goes to making a "profit" (earning revenue). It's just a question where the $ comes from to pay for the above expenses.

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Interesting article:

http://www.perc.org/articles/article145.php

 

It claims:

- poor people tend not to visit national parks as much, but relating to reasons other than park fees (such as travel/equipment expenses)

- it's in the best interest of a poor person to have their tax dollars go to fund the general budget, and have the wealthier people, who do visit parks, to pay to play

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Let's respect the voices of our forefathers:

 

8. National park administration should seek primarily the benefit and enjoyment of the people rather than financial gain and such enjoyment should be free to the people with out vexatious admission charges and other fees.

 

http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/kieley/kieley5.htm

 

There is precedent for no fees!

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