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Town considers firing off letter to DC about park fee hike

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Jackson councilman Jim Stanford would like the town to voice its opposition to a proposed fee hike at Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. He urged his peers to join him by signing off on a letter to the National Park Service that would express at least one gateway town’s discontent with the unprecedented way in which the Department of the Interior was calling the shots, lately.

“The National Park Service—or some management of the National Park Service—is proposing to more than double the entrance fee at Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone,” Stanford said at a town council meeting Monday night. “This came out of…not quite left field…it came out of Montana. It’s more than doubling the entrance fee. We are really rapidly approaching the situation where if somebody here in Jackson wants to take their girlfriend or kid camping at Jenny Lake it’s already going to cost you a minimum of $105 for the entrance fee and the backcountry fee you have to pay on top of it. It’s really beginning to escalate out of the realm of affordability.”

Sticker shock is only a piece of what sticks in Stanford’s craw. His open disdain for the Trump Administration appears to be at the heart of his motivation.

“This is being done in a manner completely inconsistent with how the Park Service has gone about these fee hikes before. They are usually done through a very thorough and broad public process,” Stanford said. “This is a very heavy-handed order from above.”

Stanford’s fellow councilmembers appeared hesitant at Monday’s meeting to jump on board. Both Hailey Morton Levinson and Bob Lenz said they would feel more comfortable with opposing the method rather than the magnitude of increase.

“It’s pretty hard for me to just outright say, ‘No, an increase in fees is wrong, period,’ because people pay for everything these days,” Lenz said.

“Are you okay with the more than doubling the entrance fees in one fell swoop?” Stanford shot back.

Morton Levinson said she was more comfortable talking about the process. Stanford consented that was what caused his major heartburn.

“This is without precedent, really,” Stanford said. “Personally, I am not opposed to looking at fees for Yellowstone Park given the inundation of visitors, but the Park Service usually has a very thorough process and they could come up with different adaptive strategies. This really isn’t even intended to address the crowding in Yellowstone. It’s intended, supposedly, to fix a maintenance backlog, which would take 200 years even if the fees were instituted.”

Staff will work with Stanford over the next few weeks to have a draft letter ready for the council’s regular meeting on November 20. Town officials will decide then, after reading the letter, whether they feel comfortable signing it.

Deadline to provide feedback to NPS regarding the fee hikes proposed for some 70 national parks including Grand Teton and Yellowstone is November 23.
Submit your comment directly to NPS

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