RFF on the Issues

RFF on the Issues: National Park Service to Increase Fee for Lifetime Senior Pass

Apr 19, 2017 | Shannon Wulf Tregar

The National Park Service’s fee for a lifetime pass for senior citizens—currently only $10—is set to go up to $80, possibly before the end of 2017. The price jump, the first since 1994, is the result of the National Park Service Centennial Act, new legislation designed to pay for projects and visitor services through an endowment. Kathy Kupper, a Park Service spokesperson notes, “We don’t know whether we’ll get any pushback. It [the higher fee] is still a great deal.”

In a Resources magazine article last fall, RFF’s Margaret Walls recommended increasing the lifetime senior pass fee. She notes that price increases are often met with resistance, but explains that “When one person’s visit to a park doesn’t appreciably diminish the experience for others, the fee to use the park should be zero. That doesn’t apply when the public good starts to experience congestion problems, and that’s what’s happening in some of our national parks.” To help alleviate overcrowding at the most popular parks and address a deferred maintenance backlog of $12 billion, the National Park Service should also consider other changes to the pricing structure, according to Walls, including charging a higher price to foreign visitors (a model already in practice in many other countries) as well as implementing different fees based on season and location.

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Ed. note: This week (April 15–23, 2017) is National Park Week, and admission to all national parks is free. 

The views expressed in RFF blog posts are those of the authors and should not be attributed to Resources for the Future.