NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Letting Parks Keep Fees A Success

June 11, 1998

In 1995, Congress authorized a three-year experiment at national parks. It allowed 100 of them to increase fees or implement new ones, and keep 80 percent of what they collected -- rather than forwarding the money to the U.S. Treasury.

How did the experiment work out?

  • In its first year, the program raised $53 million more than the roughly $80 million that existing fees brought in.
  • These fees generate less than 10 percent of the National Park Service's $1.6 billion budget -- but are critically important to restorations and improvements at individual parks.
  • Eight out of every 10 visitors say they don't mind the higher fees.
  • Moreover, the 100 parks that raised fees saw attendance go up by 3.5 percent.

The program has been so popular that Congress will allow all fees -- not just those raised during the demonstration project -- to remain in the park where they are collected in 1998 and 1999.

Source: Michael W. Lynch (Reason magazine), "Public-Private Partners that Work," Investor's Business Daily, June 11, 1998.


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