Word has it that the fees charged by the National Park Service (NPS) for climbing Mount Rainier and Denali are going to increase significantly. I go back and forth on whether it is ethical to charge anyone anywhere for hiking and climbing. I am beginning to think there may be some reasons to do so.
The NPS has enjoyed implementing user fees to supplement their budget shortfall over recent years. Their budget is allocated by Congress through appropriations. With the down economy, U.S. spending deficit, and other political factors, federal public land maintenance is not a top priority. It never has been for that matter. And that is a good thing; too much money for the NPS may mean too many grandiose interpretive centers and not enough wilderness. So extra cash from the visitors that use the park seems reasonable.
It is probably acceptable to charge fees for any mountain anywhere where the trails are so popular the routes are trampled with refuse, not to mention higher management costs of searches and rescues (SARs). Rainier passes that test. Mount McKinley? Probably. Ben Nevis? Not sure. But doubling the price to play? That seems tough.
Shouldn’t an increase that big be implemented over a long period of time? I guess when the park service is funded less, the still popular parks have to fund their services somehow. I’m sorry that the park service feels it has to come so suddenly.
I’m really sorry for the cash strapped climber that just spent his savings on his new rack and crampons. Well, there is always next season, boss…