Prices for the lifetime National Parks senior pass might jump as early as this fall, according to Yellowstone superintendent Dan Wenk.
According to the Cody Enterprise, Wenk floated the idea of raising the fee at a panel held at the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s annual conference. Currently, seniors can purchase a lifetime pass for $10. Wenk said raising the price could help cover necessary maintenance costs in the Park and bridge the gap left lacking by Congressional funding. From the Enterprise:
Wenk said he is frequently told by citizens over 62 that the senior pass is a good buy and they would be willing to pay more for it.
His response? Pay the full, $30-per-car cost at a park entrance as essentially a donation to the Park Service.
“You don’t have to use it,” Wenk said of the pass. “Pay the fee.”
The panel topic was “Challenge: Parks & Wreck.” The focus was on how much further behind the National Park system is falling on upkeep of roads, buildings, trails and the like because the National Park Service doesn’t have the money to maintain them.
A general public willingness to pay more for the senior pass was discussed, with the possibility of raising the fee from $10 to $80.
Wenk said about 500,000 people have the senior pass, providing $5 million in revenue.
Raising the cost to $80 would obviously multiply revenue by bringing in many millions more to work with, he said.
“They (seniors) understand they’re getting a good deal,” said Marcia August of PEW Charitable Trusts, a non-profit organization devoted to serving the public interest.
August said there is a $12 billion backlog on deferred maintenance.
The problem of funding and maintaining national parks isn’t limited to Yellowstone. According to August, many underestimate “what the Park Service is taking care of,” adding that the NPS needs, at minimum, $820 million to “maintain the status quo.”
Kristen Brengal, of the National Parks Conservation Association, has said more funding for the national parks system could come from the Highway Trust Fund. Currently, parks only receive 58 cents to the dollar needed to cover road maintenance.
The issue of maintenance in Yellowstone could become more pressing in the years to come, especially with visitor numbers on the rise.