Fee Increase for Denali: Back to Problem Solving

The National Park Service (NPS) has apparently agreed with the Suburban Mountaineer and others: The proposed rate increase from $200 to $500 for permits to climb Denali was too great.

The Suburban Mountaineer agreed that it is costly to run the NPS mountaineering operations in Denali National Park and Preserve, however such an enormous increase in one step was intolerable.  User fees, while popular and effective with the NPS, need to be implemented in a rational manner.  This is especially true for the climber just getting out of college; the more costly permit may cause him or her to compromise on the quality of gear he or she may use on the peak to save his or her life.

According to the Fairbanks News-Miner, NPS spokeswoman Kris Fister said “we’ve taken [the proposed increase] off the table.”  However, where this leaves Denali’s mountaineering operation and other user fees is uncertain.

The NPS is returning to the drawing table and will likely provide a revenue method from other visitors, or a gradual increase (over several years) to the mountaineering permit fee — which the Suburban Mountaineer recommends.  This way, at least the college climber will not be immediately priced out of climbing at the best time in his or her life.

However, the News-Miner article finally articulated the NPS position and rationale for the large increase so well (its communications team managed to explain this only after the push-back from the public was heard, it seems):

“’We spend an inordinate amount of money for a small number of visitors,’ Fister said of the mountaineering program.

“Next climbing season, the Park Service estimates it will spend approximately $1,200 per climber on Denali while the average cost for all other visitors in the park is expected to be about $37.”

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