Will the Park Service’s proposal to double entry fees fix their maintenance problem?

It’s unlikely the problem will be fixed in the immediate future.

Raising the park’s fees will most likely deter visitors. Without visitors buying tickets, there will be no influx of cash that is so desperately needed in order to fix the parks’ maintenance problems. Thus, according to the data from the Washington Post article, using this method will do more harm than good. The parks will remain in disrepair, and there will be fewer visitors able to enjoy them.

Background

The National Park Service is proposing that they double, and, in some cases even triple, the entrance rates for 17 different National Parks. This additional influx of resources would earn roughly $70 million a year. The increase in ticket prices was proposed in order to assuage an $11.3 billion maintenance backlog. The Washington Post estimates that, even with the higher prices, it will take more than 161 years to pay the full amount. In addition, it will offset less than ¼ of the $297 million budget cut proposed by the Trump Administration.

Challenges

National Park graph

The first challenge that the National Park Service faces is dwindling money from Congress. In terms of total dollar amounts, the National Park Service has had a relatively flat budget over the past decade. However, their share of total federal spending has fallen by 1/3 since 2005. Combined with an increase of visitors, it’s no wonder that the parks haven’t been able to keep up with maintenance costs.

The increase in park visitors is the second challenge, and it is also a probable cause for the proposed increase in ticket prices. The past 11 years have shown a significant influx in visitors. Visitations surged by over 20%, from 273 million in 2005 to 331 million in 2016. Research has shown that an increase in ticket prices causes more people to stay home. However, the effect of doubling and tripling ticket prices is unknown.

My Interpretation of the Data

When I looked at the above graph, I saw a steady decline in park funding and a steady increase in the number of park visits. I liked that this graph had clearly defined x and y axes. It also did not appear to be misleading. However, I was curious about whether repeat visitors were counted in the total, like the number of views on a you tube video.

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