DeFazio wants Interior to rethink Crater Lake fee hike – January 3, 2007

DeFazio wants Interior to rethink Crater Lake fee hike

Mail Tribune

Medford, Oregon
January 3, 2007
By PAUL FATTIG

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio is urging the Department of the Interior to reconsider a proposed $10 entrance fee increase at Crater Lake National Park.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, DeFazio, a Springfield Democrat, said he was opposed to the proposal, which would double the Crater Lake fee for motor vehicles to $20.

The National Park Service, which is part of the Interior, announced last month that it was considering fee increases throughout its system as the result of Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act approved by Congress late in 2005. The law allows the agency to collect entrance fees and “expanded amenity fees” for services, facilities or equipment and use the funds for projects that directly benefit visitors.

A 90-day comment period on the proposal began Monday and continues through March 31. If approved, the increases would begin in January 2008.

“It doesn’t make sense to increase the park fees while national parks are struggling to attract visitors,” DeFazio said in a prepared statement. “I am concerned that the increase in fees at Crater Lake will discourage regular visits by Oregon families.

“I agree that the national park system is in need of additional funding, but raising fees for park visitors will only drive visitors away,” he added. “Instead, the Department of the Interior should raise the money it needs to improve the park system by collecting the royalties that oil companies owe the United States.”

DeFazio also observed that Crater Lake has been bucking the trend of declining national park visitation.

“Park officials attribute the steady visitation at Crater Lake to regular return visits by Oregonians,” he wrote. “I am concerned that the doubling of fees will deter regular trips by Oregon families and Crater Lake will join the parade of national parks experiencing declining visitations.”

Although no park officials were available Tuesday because of the federal day of mourning for the late President Gerald Ford, park superintendent Chuck Lundy said when the proposal was announced in mid-December that increased fees would provide additional funding for projects and help improve visitor facilities and services throughout the park. Eighty percent of the entrance fees Crater Lake visitors pay are used at the park, he said.

Although the proposal would double all entrance fees, including the annual pass from $20 to $40, children under 16 years old would still be allowed in the park at no charge. The $10-per-night camping fee at Lost Creek campground and commercial tour rates also would remain the same.

To comment on the proposal, visit the park’s Web site at www.nps.gov/crla or send a letter to Superintendent, Crater Lake National Park, P.O. Box 7, Crater Lake, OR 97604.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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