DENALI — Six Alaska businesses signed a letter this week in opposition to proposed National Park entrance fee increases.
Earlier this year, the National Park Service announced plans to increase fees at 17 of the most popular parks in the country during the peak visitor seasons. For Denali, the per-person, daily entrance fee would increase from $10 to $30. A public comment period on the new fee ends Friday.
The National Parks Conservation Association, a nonprofit organization that opposes the entrance-fee hike, announced in a news release Wednesday that more than 80 businesses and community organizations near the affected National Parks signed a letter in opposition to the proposal.
In some other towns, local chambers of commerce signed the letter. The Denali Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center hasn’t taken a formal stance on the fee increase because not enough chamber members have expressed opinions, said Vanessa Jusczak, the Denali chamber director.
The Alaska businesses that signed the letter are Alaska Alpine Adventures, Alaska Wildland Adventures, Cathy Hart Photography, Denali Dome Home Bed and Breakfast, Denali National Park Wilderness Centers, and the Earthsong Lodge and Denali Dog Sled Expeditions.
The letter asks Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to consider all the public comments before increasing fees, to conduct additional research on the effects of a fee hike and to work with Congress to address the Parks Service’s $11 billion maintenance backlog. The fee increase, the letter points out, seeks to raise only $70 million in new revenues.
“We recognize fees play an important role in providing for maintenance and other needs that improve visitor experiences in our national parks,” according to the letter. “However, we are very concerned these proposed fee increases are drastic and could make these parks unaffordable for people to visit and negatively impact the gateway communities in which we conduct business.”
The Park Service is accepting public comment on the new fees online through Friday at bit.ly/2iz0VdA.
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors. News-Miner columnist Kris Capps contributed to this report.