WASHINGTON - Be prepared to pay a bit more if you're headed to some national parks and recreation areas this summer.
After a six-year moratorium, the federal government is raising the price of admission at some of its public lands and increasing the fees charged for camping, boating, cave tours and other activities. The National Park Service says the money is just a fraction of the $11.5 billion needed to repair and maintain roads, trails, and park buildings.
Some members of Congress have expressed concern about the fee increases, but National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said at a March congressional hearing that visitors are still getting an incredible deal when compared with other recreational pursuits.
"We cannot greet them with failing facilities," Jarvis said of the 295 million people expected to visit National Park Service properties, which also include sites such as the Lincoln Memorial.
Fees have increased in eight parks, including Yosemite, so far and are likely to rise in several dozen more parks in the coming months.
Each park determines how much to charge visitors after public input and approval from Washington. Jarvis told park superintendents in September to begin the public outreach that must accompany fee increases. The service went to Facebook as part of its efforts to gauge the prospect of higher fees at Yosemite National Park.
"Keep in mind - this belongs to the people, and it shouldn't be priced out of the reach of the average person," wrote Gayle Partmann of Rohnert Park, Calif. Partmann and her family spent several summer vacations at Yosemite when she was growing up.
"I'd rather pay money to get into Yosemite than any theme park I've been to," wrote William Sanger of Berwick, Maine, who visited the park in October.
Only about one-third of the 400-plus properties within the National Park Service system charge an entrance fee.