Yosemite National Park proposes entrance fee and campground fee increase

Yosemite National Park is proposing to increase entrance fees and camping fees at the park.

A 30-day public engagement period on the proposed fee increase began Oct. 20, 2014 and ends Nov. 20, 2014. Feedback will be accepted via email and via U.S. Mail at: Superintendent Attention Proposed Fee Increase P.O. Box 577 Yosemite, CA 95389. The public is also invited to an open house in the Yosemite Valley Auditorium, located behind the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., which will include public engagement.

Below are Frequently Asked Questions released by Yosemite National Park to better explain its proposal.

What are the proposed entrance fees?
Historical Yosemite images courtesy
of National Park Service
For a seven day  pass, the vehicle entrance rate would be $30, a motorcycle entrance rate would be $25, and an individual person rate would be $15. Yosemite National Park is proposing to raise the cost of an annual park pass to $60. All Interagency Passes will remain at the current rates: Annual ($80) Senior ($10), Access ($0), and Military ($0).

Why is Yosemite National Park raising the entrance fee?
This fee increase is part of a larger National Park Service initiative to standardize fees in similar parks across the country. Yosemite National Park was classified with parks of comparable size and visitation and given the corresponding fee schedule. Yosemite’s current entrance fees have been in place since 1997, when a seven day pass was increased from $5 to $20 per vehicle.

How are entrance fees calculated?
The NPS fee structure is a tiered approach that classifies Yosemite National Park with parks of comparable size and visitation. The NPS analysis of fees is based on relevant academic studies, private and public sector benchmarks, and existing NPS data, and seeks to provide fair, equitable and consistent fees to the public across the National Park System. Yosemite is part of Group 4, which generally includes larger parks with higher operating costs due to high levels of visitation and infrastructure, such as Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yellowstone.

What do the current fees pay for?
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) of 2005  authorized 100% of the revenue generated by charging fees to be returned to the National Park Service, with 80% remaining at the site where it is collected and 20% to be used servicewide to fund programs and parks that don’t collect fees. These funds are to be used in the park for projects that directly benefit visitors. Funds generated by the fees are used to accomplish projects the park has been unable to fund through annual Congressional allocations. Examples of recent park projects funded with fee revenue include projects to reconfigure Yosemite’s South Entrance Station, upgrade the water system that serves the Crane Flat Campground, and to improve accessibility by providing an American Sign Language interpreter and converting campsites into accessible sites.

What will the new fee revenues be used for?
Forecasted revenue from proposed entrance fee increases is approximately $4–5 million annually. The new revenue from the fee increases will be used to provide enhanced visitor services including repair and maintenance of facilities, capital improvements, enhanced amenities, resource protection and additional visitor programs and services.  There will be an emphasis on park improvements prior to the NPS centennial anniversary in 2016.

Additional revenue will be used to implement traffic management solutions in Yosemite Valley that will alleviate traffic congestion and improve the visitor experience. Yosemite National Park has historically been challenged with major transportation, circulation, and traffic congestion issues. Park visitation has increased steadily over the past five years to extremely high levels, exceeding 4 million visitors in recent years, much of which is concentrated between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Transportation-related impacts are significant during these periods, resulting in traffic congestion and parking shortages. These impacts cause visitor frustration, resource impacts, and safety concerns. Proposed traffic management solutions include removing administrative facilities to reconfigure and expand the main visitor day-use parking area, updating road infrastructure to enhance traffic circulation, and providing visitors real-time traffic information using an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). Fee revenue will also be used to provide enhanced public transportation/transit services, both inside the park and from adjacent communities.

How does this fee compare to other national park sites?
Yosemite currently charges a $20 per vehicle entrance rate. Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Yellowstone/Grand Teton all currently collect $25. The servicewide proposal includes increasing the vehicle entrance rate for all these parks to $30. Parks that have raised entrance fees in the last 20 years, such as Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone/Grand Teton, did not find that their visitation decreased when they raised fees.

What are the proposed changes to campground rates?
The park is proposing to raise camping fees by 20%. The proposed fee changes are as follows:

Campsite type - Current Rate - Proposed Rate
Reservation Family site - $20 - $24
Reservation Stock camps - $25 - $30
Reservation Double sites - $30 - $36
Reservation Group sites - $40 - $48
Non-reservation drive-in site - $14 - $17
Primitive drive-in site - $10 - $12
Walk-in and Backpackers sites - $5 - $6

How are campground fees calculated?
Campground fees are set based on comparability studies. For the current study, park staff identified over 50 campgrounds with a level of service, size, and amenities matching Yosemite campgrounds including walk-in, primitive, non-reservation/unstaffed drive-in, staffed reservation drive-in, stock and group sites. Staff also chose campgrounds nearby that represent multiple agencies, including USDA Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, as well as state, county, and privately owned facilities.

Why is the park raising campground fees?
The current campground rates have been in place since 2001 for group and stock sites and 2006 for all other campsites. The cumulative rate of inflation since last raising campground rates is 18% and the cost of managing the campgrounds has increased 3.4% in the last three years.

What do the current campground fees pay for?
Campground fees pay for reservation services and operational costs.

What will the additional campground fee revenues be used for?
The additional income from a rate increase for campgrounds would continue to be used to cover reservation services and operational costs. Revenue from campgrounds has remained flat since 2006 while the cost to operate campgrounds has increased.  The cumulative rate of inflation since last raising campground rates is 18% and the cost of managing the campgrounds has increased 3.4% in the last three years.

How do these campground fees compare to other national park sites?
The recent comparability study revealed that Yosemite National Park is currently charging less than other campgrounds in our surrounding area and in other national parks. Even with the proposed increase, camping in Yosemite would remain one of the least expensive and greatest experiences that visitors in our area can enjoy.

When was the last time the park raised the campground fee?
The current campground rates have been in place since 2001 for group and stock sites and 2006 for all other campsites.

When would these fee changes be implemented?
If approved, the new fees could potentially be implemented as early as January 2015.

What are the next steps?
The National Park Service is soliciting public feedback on the proposal to increase the entrance fee and campground rates. A 30-day public engagement period will begin on October 20, 2014. Comments may be sent to yose_planning@nps.gov or by mail to: Superintendent, Yosemite National Park, Attn: Proposed Fee Increase, PO Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389.

An open house will be held in the Yosemite Valley Auditorium on Nov. 12, 2014, from 2:00–4:00 PM.