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Pay for view

Denali National Park and Preserve: See it this summer and save 50 percent.

The National Park Service has announced plans to jack the entry fee from $10 to $15 next year.  The federal agency said in a Friday statement that the fee increase will “provide additional funding for infrastructure and maintenance needs that enhance the visitor experience.”

One of Alaska’s oldest national parks, Denali is an integral part of the 49th state’s booming tourism business; the $5 increase is not expected to impact tourism.

The increase is expected to net the federal agency an extra $2 million to $3 M in 2019 based on current visitation. The revenue is lowered by the fact the increase in the annual pass fee is only going up $5 – from $40 to $45.

Infrastructure in the park is minimal: A largely gravel, 92-mile-long road, a half-dozen campgrounds, two visitor centers, a handful of trails, and park offices.

Park officials in their statement said the new admission charges stem from the “many concerns and ideas provided by the public on how best to address fee revenue for parks.”

Most of the money – 80 percent – will remain under the park’s control, the statement said, with the rest shared with agency headquarters.

 “Fees are an important source of revenue and represent a third of the operations and maintenance budget at Denali,” Superintendent Don Striker was quoted saying. “This increase will allow Denali to eliminate our non-roads maintenance backlog in five years.”

Non-road maintenance projects funded last year were identified as a new entrance sign for the tourist attraction adjacent to the George Parks Highway from Anchorage to Fairbanks and a “free-run pen” at the park kennels to support “the health of the park’s sled dogs” and  provide “a place for visitors to watch and enjoy the dogs at play.”

Denali Park keeps more than two dozen sled dogs. They are used by rangers for winter sled-dog patrols deep into the 6-million-acre wilderness in winter.

Denali welcomed more than 642,000 visitors in 2017, the park reported. Denali visitation has continued to creep upward even as national park visitation  has flatlined. President Donald Trump only added to the agency’s budget whoas with a proposed a 12 percent cut in the park budget, which park employees have described as crippling.

Nationally, the park service is hoping the fee increase will bring in an extra $60 million in 2019, a tiny fraction of the money needed to cover deferred maintenance, according to the statement.

Estimated costs of repair work needed on roads, bridges, buildings, campgrounds, water systems, bathrooms, now total $11.6 billion nationwide, the statement said. Needed Denali repairs and additions were pegged at $54.7 million.

The entrance fee at Denali last increased in 2011. The fee began in 1988 when Denali  was added to the list of 117 parks charging such fees. The other 300 are free, including the road accessible Kenai Fjords National Park, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway.

Most of the Alaska’s national parks are remote, hard to reach and little visited.

The new fees kick in May 1, 2019.

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6 replies »

  1. I did the lottery drive on the Denali park road last fall. When I checked in I noticed that the rangers working the counter, and taking peoples’ money, had apparently been instructed to complete their transaction by saying: “Congratulations on winning the road lottery.” That pissed me off. Think about it. The public pays the livelihood of these ranger yo-yos. The public pays for the infrastructure, maintenance and administration of the park. So when rangers receive money from the public, they should say “Thank you for supporting America’s National parks”. They should not arrogantly and cluelessly say: “Congratulations for giving me money to access the land your taxes pay for”! Though hearing this backward government logic ticked me off, I can’t say that it surprised me. National Park staff are not know to be the sharpest knives in the drawer.

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  2. Ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it when the whiny liberals made a national protest of raising Park fees when news first came out from the U.S. Department of Interior. For crying out loud aren’t they the nations crown jewels?
    Old retirees should pay double the fee, young poor people should get a free pass, and elitist should be banned.

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      • Mr Arno. The biggest complainer I know about the fee increase is anything but a “whiney.iberal.” He is a card-carrying member of your Council and the only thing holding his jalopy together is Trump stickers and duct tape. Get passed the labels and your comment would be more compelling. I will tell him you think he is an “elitist.”

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