The cost of savoring nature could go way up

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The cost of savoring natural splendor may be going up.

The National Park Service is considering a steep increase in entrance fees at 17 of its most popular parks, including Yosemite, to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects.

With the hikes mostly in the western states, visitors who want to see Half Dome or Old Faithful  or the slot canyons of Zion better bring more money: park administrators want to charge $70 per vehicle, more than double the fee of $30 for a weekly pass. At others, the hike is nearly triple, from $25 to $70.

It’s not yet a done deal – a 30-day public comment period opens this week. But the park service says it hopes to raise $70 million a year with the proposal at a time when national parks repeatedly have been breaking visitation records and putting a strain on park resources. For example, nearly six million people visited the Grand Canyon last year.

Park-goers, of course, are upset.

People love their national parks, of course. Here’s a look at some people feel about these precious treasures which are not just open spaces but open spaces crammed full of majestic mountains, peculiar land forms, mysterious geysers and dramatic waterfalls crashing into deep canyons. These testimonials about five of the parks being considered for the fee-hike have been gathered from a forum called MyParkStory curated by the National Parks Conservation Association.

Yosemite National Park

“When I was a kid, my father took me and my sibs camping in Yosemite in the early 60’s. All day and night we heard people yelling: “Elmer”, “Elsie, Gilbert!” repeatedly. Being newbies to the park, we had no idea what was going on. My Dad,OBM, told us that they were probably the names of kids (like us) who had gotten lost. This was, indeed, a cautionary tale for us pre-adolescents. Especially for me, since my first name is “Gilbert”. So we took to yelling the names of these assumed unfortunates to help find “The Three” and return them to their poor parents. On a subsequent trip, I found out that we were yelling the names of some prominent local bears that frequented the Valley’s dump! – Gilbert

“We all have different definitions of what “wilderness” means to us. To some, wilderness is a cultural construct, shaped by the American frontier, but to others, wilderness is a feeling. It’s a sense of awe and wonder that reminds us that we, humans, Americans, whoever, did not create this world. We didn’t create Half Dome Mountain or Yosemite National Park but we can appreciate it. When I look at this picture I see my family, looking out at something that humbles us. I cannot ignore the cultural implications of Yosemite or the Native Americans who have been displaced in the pursuit of preservation. I cannot ignore the sense of awe that grounds me and reminds me that whether I’m looking at Half Dome or the grove of trees in my backyard, I wouldn’t want to see anything else.” – Katie

“I loved being in Yosemite. I was camping in a tent with my friend while her parents stayed in the camper. One night I heard what sounded like a bear nearby. That kept me awake for awhile! It was 90 degrees there, so I went tubing down the Merced River. I didn’t have my glasses on. I passed the bridge where I was supposed to get out and went all the way down to the next one. It took me a long time, but I finally found my way back to our campsite. My friends were worried about me. I was very inspired by the beauty of Yosemite. I became fascinated by the story and person of John Muir. It amazed me that he climbed those mountains with no protective equipment. I bought everything I could by and about Muir even after I was home again. I haven’t had the chance since 1991, but I would love to visit Yosemite again and many other of our wonderful national parks.” – Lorri Goldman

Yellowstone National Park

“In the 1980’s, my husband, our two high-school aged daughters, and I took a summer vacation to Yellowstone National Park by car driving across Nebraska and Wyoming. We stopped twice on the way out, first with relatives in Chappell and then after enjoying the Wyoming mountains, stayed overnight in northern Wyoming at a hotel. When we arrived at the park, we stayed at Old Faithful Inn, an old but comfortable inn that was very rustic in appearance. We also ate some meals at the inn. I think everything we saw was fantastic and to make it even better, our Lincoln neighbors who were working in the park (15 years older and retired), drove us around and explained all the sights. At noon time we stopped for a delicious lunch and fellowship. Everything in the park smelled “fresh and inviting.” I remember the sounds of the river, of wildlife and of the bubbling geysers. The weather was cool in the mornings warranting a light jacket as we walked before breakfast and then pleasant (not hot) the rest of the day. Words that come to mind to describe how I felt on the trip are pleasant, peaceful, relaxing, and very enjoyable. One unfortunate thing that happened on the trip was that the day we were scheduled to go around with our neighbors from Lincoln, my husband woke up not feeling well. He was sick with a short-lived stomach flu. So he spent the day between bed and the bathroom. He also spent the time looking out his bedroom window which was in direct sight of Old Faithful! From the park we drove down to Jackson Hole, admiring the mountains and animals. We had to wait while buffalo leisurely crossed the highway. We took a boat ride down the fast water with a guide. It was a very enjoyable summer vacation!” – Dolores

“My sister and best friend (pictured) was my travelling partner seeing over 25 national parks in just 10 years. Dying suddenly, I am so happy we had so much fun and I have so much to remember about the trails we hiked, the animals we made friends with, the rangers we laughed with and the absolutely stunning nature we experienced together. Nothing brings her back, but remembering the many parks we got to see together fuels my need to finish what we started together – to see all the rest. Each hiking medal I get to collect checks one more off.” – Kim

Zion National Park 

“This was our first trip camping in a National Park after having children. We hiked, played in the river, and the children earned their first Junior Ranger Badges. After this trip, we were addicted and nearly every year, we stay in a National Park.” – Michelle

“Serenity, magnificent awe-inspiring, sanctuary.” – Barbara Bogart

“My National Parks Plein Air Project began in 2014 in Isle Royale Nat Park with the desire to visit and paint on site all 59 Nat Parks. Thus far I have “plein air” painted in 35 Parks. I return to my framing shop and art studio every few weeks so I can earn money for the next adventure. Every Park poses a different set of challenges such as getting a clear day at Mt Rainier or sharing my sleeping bag with spiders at Smokey Mtns or being dropped on by rappelers at Zion. Sometimes the trail is just a boardwalk at Biscayne Bay or a treacherous icy path at Black Canyon of the Gunnison in March 2016. Hauling my easel with oils and pastels and canvases and paper and brushes and camera and notebooks can be very difficult—-yet so worthwhile. “Plein air” painting takes you many steps further than a cell phone snap shot. It represents an individual experience that creates an emotional as well as artistic legacy. Waiting for the “just right” inspiration is an unique experience that I hope others will come to appreciate. While in the painting process I have the opportunity to share with Park visitors a bit of my journey and each Park’s wonder. Children are the most inquisitive and they hold the key for our Parks’ continued survival. My goal is to finish the project at the end of a 2017 with a book and possibly a traveling art show to cities so many people can be aware of our Nation’s greatest treasures. Happy trails!” – Mary Fassbinder

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Arches National Park

“My wife and I started our big five National Park tour in Utah a few years ago in Arches National Park. After hiking a number of small trails and seeing most of the highlights of the park throughout the day we decided to hike up and see delicate arch even though storms were in the area and sunset was quickly approaching. After walking all the way up a surprisingly long walk, we had one of the most special displays of nature. A beautiful sunset underneath clouds illuminating the arch and all the clouds, with lightning and rain in the background. Delicate Arch is in a small natural stone bowl area creating a natural “amphitheater” for nature to display some of its best stuff; a very special moment!!!!!” – Tim

 

“In July 1998 I was planning a trip to Wyoming for a horseback riding vacation and decided to add a week touring the area around Moab, Utah. Of course this included Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. This picture wasn’t taken in either Arches or Canyonlands but it was listed as a “must see” in one of the guide books so I had to take the hike. This is Corona Arch and the hike up to it includes cable hand rails and ladders so it is a little challenging but once at the top the view is worth the challenge. Since I was hiking alone, though, my first thought when I reached the top was “I need to go down the same way I got up”. I was a bit nervous but it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I can honestly say the scenery in and around Arches and Canyonlands is more spectacular than any other park I have visited (of course there are still quite a few I haven’t visited).” – Deb

 

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Grand Canyon National Park

I promised myself I would share this amazing and inspiring story with the world about how we have both a privilege and duty associated with our national parks. Each one of us who has visited a national park and spent some time in one has felt the benefit of that visit to our being-physical, mental, and spiritual. Yet, we forget that we have a duty towards the parks as well. A duty to not spoil the beauty of the park and its surroundings by throwing trash in it. As part of my recent visit to the Havasu Falls within Grand Canyon we had to trek 2400 ft down one day and back on the third day. Although it was a difficult trek uphill and that too in the peak sun, this amazing guide (Alex Wood) from Wildland Trekking company, not only gave us encouragement and water to complete our hike, he also continued picking up recyclable trash along the way out. He ended his journey having collected three heavy bags full of recyclables. Not trusting the recycling in the area, his goal was to take it with him to personally ensure the items got recycled. A lot of people walking out got inspired by him and praised him no end. But the best compliment he got was from the canyon itself which rewarded this budding hiker/geologist with a rare fossilized stone.” – Tamanna Mohapatra

“I was privileged enough to work for the Forever Resorts Lodge in the Grand Canyon – North Rim for an entire year, including the winter. This is a view of the Canyon from the top of the North Rim during the winter. A view that not many get to experience, so I thought I would share it here!” –  Paul

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“My Grandmother and Grandfather took several trips to all of the Southwest national parks in the 40,’s, 50’s and 60’s. Over the years, I have loved going through their slides, sorted by park and seeing the National Parks in ways that are impossible today. I have over 8,000 slides and someday hope to find someone who will cherish and potentially use them to bring the parks back alive, as they were over 50 years ago.” – Bonnie

 

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