The National Park Service annual budget is around $2.3 billion -- with a mere $186 million coming from entrance and campground fees, according to the NPS’s Brandon Flint. Many parks are free. The most expensive parks charge a per car fee -- e.g., $25 at Yellowstone for a week. Seniors can get a lifetime pass for $10.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar launched the system’s first fee-free weekends this year. The last of three ended Sunday. The idea was to give financially strapped families some economic relief -- and as far as that, the idea worked fine, although a purist would argue that the parks should be charging more for the sort of destinations people spend a lot to reach, not less.
Entrance to Yellowstone should cost a family more than a night at the movies. As for the lifetime senior pass, it’s a boondoggle and should be eliminated. Let retirees pay what parents with young kids have to scrape together. I don’t think many families would complain. For one thing, they’d be too relaxed.