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Travel Minute — How To Rescue Our National Parks

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This year is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the national parks system in the United National Park image NPS photoStates, and the parks have been getting a lot of attention.

But there’s a problem: Our national parks are broke.

Surveys show the national parks are one part of the federal government that most Americans adore.  But they’re buckling under the weight of visitors and deferred maintenance.  They need about $12 billion to spiff things up, to put it mildly, but Congress is parsimonious when it comes to the parks.

Terry L. Anderson has an idea.  He’s a distinguished fellow at the Property & Environment Research Center and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. He suggests parks be permitted to increase fees modestly to cover their operating costs.  Visitors could do that by paying $7.63 a head to see the Grand Canyon.  Two dollars per person to tour the Smokey Mountains. Those fees alone will cover the operating costs of those parks; congressional funds could be used to repair infrastructures.

Foreign visitors make up about 25% of visitors to the parks, and they pay no US taxes that could help support national parks.  Anderson suggests they be charged a premium to visit parks, a common practice in other countries where foreign visitors much higher entry fees for attractions than locals.    

Let’s see if Congress gets interested.