13 November, 2017
Dear Friends of Zion National Park,
The Department of the Interior has released a proposal to more than double park entrance fees at seventeen of the most heavily visited parks in the country, including Zion National Park. The Zion National Park Forever Project believes it may be prudent to consider some level of increase to entrance fees – but not in the absence of a more comprehensive approach by Congress, and by our National Park Service partner.
As a community of stewards, Zion National Park is our inheritance and everyone’s responsibility to protect. Together, with our park partners, we shoulder the weight of preserving and sustaining this sacred canyon and plateau for all people and for generations to come.
The Zion Natl Park Forever Project is the park’s official nonprofit partner and leads private philanthropy efforts that ensure the park’s margin of excellence. Federal appropriations and visitor entrance fees are intended to support the park’s basic maintenance needs and day to day operations and are essential to maintaining the health of our parks. Regrettably, annual congressional appropriations for Zion have not kept up with park visitation which has risen to more than 4.3 million visitors in 2016.
In order for park visitors to get a maximum benefit from any level of entrance fee increase, our park superintendents need greater flexibility in how these fund sources – including fee revenue and congressional appropriations – can be used to address the park’s greatest needs, including a staffing, operational, and deferred maintenance strategy that fully leverages public-private partnerships.
Increasing the visitor entrance fee at Zion National Park from $30 to $70 during the summer months seems to arbitrarily target lower income individuals, young people, and families with children in school that may be unable to visit during a shoulder season. We don’t believe that this is a fair way to go about it, and that further analysis should be done.
Doubling the entrance fees to our national parks may put America’s Best Idea out of reach for many of its citizens, creating an exclusive experience for less Americans, rather than an affordable and deeply meaningful experience for all people.
It is the right time for us to consider the best approaches to protecting our most sacred and spectacular lands – including Zion National Park, as she turns 100 in 2019. From our perspective here in Zion Canyon, it is a heritage recipe that includes the following ingredients:
A dependable annual congressional appropriation that meets the basic operational and maintenance needs of our parks based on increasing park visitation
More in-Park flexibility for how appropriations and entrance fees can be utilized to give visitors and our parks maximum benefit (loosen the reins and let our parks do their best work)
Empowered private philanthropy and public-private partnerships to grow a lasting community of stewardship for our parks forever, to accomplish projects that the park cannot achieve on its own
Together, we believe these are the essential ingredients to preserving the Zion National Park experience for generations to come. We’re sharing this recipe with the Department of the Interior and our Congressional Delegation with the hope that they will consider a more comprehensive approach for tending to our national parks.
We encourage you to visit this link to learn more about the Department of Interior’s proposal and to share your comments on the Interior’s PEPC site during the public comment period which extends to November 23, 2017.
Thank you for being an essential part of our work.
Director, Forever Project
On behalf of Zion National Park Forever Project