Monday, April 09, 2012

Public Park Fees

On my journey out West I took increasing notice of the fees being charged to enter public parks. This is wrong. I haven’t fleshed out my arguments against it yet -- I haven’t done my research yet -- but I know in my bones that this -- charging for access to public parks -- is wrong.

Let me say right up front, I can afford them. This is not a financial issue for me. It’s the Average Joe I worry about. The average American trying to raise a family that needs a cheap vacation or day of recreation with his family. His taxes have already paid for the park -- and now we are going to nickel and dime him to death.

In New Mexico, it was around $5 to enter a State park. In Colorado, it was $7. When I tried to enter the Lake Pueblo State Park in Colorado -- a hour before dawn -- they wanted their money paid and warned of dire consequences if you didn’t display the decal on your windshield. The only problem? There was no one there (of course) and all the self-service envelopes (think about that, charging for self-service) were gone. No one to take my money and no way to prove that I had paid any money.

I didn’t say much about this during my trip until I got to the Rocky Mountain National Park. I had no idea. It was $20 to get into the park. It was only $30 to get into a couple of local tourist traps. But my taxes don’t pay for tourist traps. They do pay for the Rocky Mountain National Park.

In my youth, I watched as State parks were converted into parking pads for motor homes. I thought it was wrong. (Still do.) But I could still camp out for free -- or next to nothing. But $20 bucks to get into a National park?

On the way home, I reached my limit with this absurdity. It was in a Kansas State Park -- again, a hour before dawn. The price of admission was $3.75 (I think.) Again, no one is there. I’m trying to read and fill out the self-service envelope by my car headlights and it hit me. I don’t have any change. It’s 6 o’clock in the morning, in the middle of nowhere and I’m supposed to have change? It turns out I didn’t even have any small bills. I had a one dollar bill, no change and a bunch of twenties. Guess how much the State of Kansas got? (You’ll never catch me, Kansas.) Oh yeah, and the bathrooms were locked too.

Kudos to Alabama. $2 bucks on the “honor system”. No forms. No windshield stickers.

Don Brown
April 9, 2012


rw2 said...

100% agrees on the central thesis. I have little problem with charging for campsites and such that take persistent work to maintain. But the core services should be covered by taxes.

I do have a quibble though, "think about that, charging for self-service". You aren't being charged for self service, you are being charged for the upkeep and maintenance of the park you are entering. I actually think that's a good thing. Better to have the money go to the park than pay some poor soul to sit in an outhouse sized building collecting $3 at a time.

On a related note, I flew into the grand canyon airport and they had a similar setup. When I came back, they had taped an envelope to the window of my plane to send them the few dollars they requested for three nights parking. Was glad to send it in and thought it was a good compromise between charging more for more active collection and not being able to collect enough to keep the airport up.

4CornerFlyer said...

Don, aren't you 62 yet? After that birthday, a lifetime pass to all federal recreation areas, including National Parks, can be had for the whopping sum of $10. For those of us on the wrong side of the generational warfare divide, that fee is $80 a year. And most National Forest and BLM land is free, often beautiful, with plenty to do, even if it isn't a "park."
There are organizations that fight the expansion of park fees. My friend in CO runs one:
Jon at FMN

Kirby L. Wallace said...

Nothing is free. It costs money to do things. Even things like run and equip and maintain a public park. These sorts of things ought not to be paid for out of taxes. Taxes are supposed to be strictly to cover the cost of running the government. National parks have dick all to do with the legitimate cost of keeping the lights on in the capitol building.

Public Parks should be fee based. Always.

rw2 said...

Kirby, you make your statements as if they are objective truths. They aren't. All branches of government, from local all the way up to federal (with multiple confirmations from SCOTUS) have affirmed that this kind of spending is a-ok.

So, objectively, your statements are wrong. Subjectively you are as welcome to believe the parks should be de-funded as I am to think that I don't want to live in a country that lives by your proposed rule changes.