Proposed fee hikes for national parks could impact the community - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Proposed fee hikes for national parks could impact the community outside of Yellowstone

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The proposal to more than double Yellowstone’s entrance fee caught the park’s eastern gateway community by surprise. The proposed fee hikes affect the National Park Service’s 17 busiest parks. There are different opinions in Cody about the proposal.

Visitation to Yellowstone set an all-time record of four million plus visits in 2015, then topped that record with even higher visitation the next year. At the same time attendance was growing, the park’s budget was shrinking, and the need for maintenance continued.

Now, the National Park Service proposes more than doubling the fees for cars that enter Yellowstone from $30 to $70 during the peak season: May to September.

Cody’s Chamber of Commerce director said, “The proposed fee increases did come as a bit of a surprise.”

Tina Hoebelheinrich explained, “If you look at the number of visits to Yellowstone National Park, and lay on top of that the budgets that they have dealt with, you’re going to see budgets that are flat or declining, and visitation that goes off the chart.”

But, she said the hefty hike could hurt Cody, more than other entrances. She says a Park survey found only 29% of Yellowstone’s visitors made less than $80,000 a year.

“But the intercept surveys that they did here in Cody, 39% had incomes of less than $80,000.”

The rodeo grounds, and Trail Town are shut down for the season. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West still has visitors. But the CEO says a park pass hike could hurt this non-profit.

Bruce Eldredge said, “It might be detrimental to visitation. Could really hurt our admissions.”

Eldredge also understands the Park’s need for more revenue, but, “We have the people with the lowest income coming through here.”

The CEO of Cody’s largest hotel group says $70 per car is still a good value.

James Blair explained, “Take your family of five to the movies for 70 bucks, or to dinner for 70 bucks. It’s not going to happen. And, so I say if you take a step back it and say is it worth it, is the value there, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a tremendous value at $70.”

The Park Service proposal also includes large hikes for commercial tour busses in the Park. Anyone can comment on the proposed fee hikes at www.nps.gov.

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