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Maine Senators Take Issue With Plan For Steep Hikes In National Park Fees

Maine’s two U.S. senators say raising fees at Acadia and other national parks would be a mistake, and are urging the Interior Department to find other ways to address a $12 billion maintenance backlog.

The department is proposing increasing peak-season fees at 17 national parks, including Acadia, where the cost of a private vehicle pass would almost triple, from $25 to $70.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine says he worries about negative consequences.

“If you end up stifling visitation to the parks, you could end up with less revenue than you had before, and one of my questions for the secretary is whether any economic analysis was done,” he says.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, King and Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine say they’re concerned that increasing park fees would make it more difficult for people to visit, and could hurt the economy of the communities around the park that depend on the seasonal revenue.

“If you’re talking about a $70 fee, people are going to say, ‘Well I don’t know, maybe we’ll go to the state park or maybe we’ll stay home this year,’” King says.

In the letter, King and Collins pointed out that the increase would likely only raise about $70 million a year. At the same time, the Park Service’s request for funding for this year cuts the annual budget for maintenance and operations by $270 million.