August 18, 2021

Zion, Indiana Dunes Consider New Fees as Crowds Flood National Parks


National parks are considering more ways to address crowding as visitors continue to pack in amid the pandemic.

Several parks have seen their busiest months on record this summer. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming reported nearly 830,000 visitors in July, a new monthly record at the park. Nearby Yellowstone National Park set new visitation records in both May and June. In Utah, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park all set records for June. The problem has even caught the attention of Congress.

At least two national parks are now considering fee-based changes.

Indiana Dunes National Park is considering charging entrance fees for the first time to help pay the cost of its growing popularity. The park service says fees would go toward maintenance, programming and public safety needs. The park has seen visitation spike since becoming Indiana's first national park in 2019. Before that, it was a national seashore. If approved, entrance fees would start at $15. Public comments are being accepted until Oct. 1.

Zion is weighing whether to require reservations for one of its most popular hiking trails, Angel's Landing. There would be a $6 lottery fee for a chance to access the trail and an additional $3 fee to actually use it. The park is also considering $20 nightly camping fees for Lava Point Campground. Zion is accepting public comments on both until Sept. 12.

A number of America's most popular national parks began requiring reservations this summer in an effort to mitigate congestion. They include Yosemite National Park and Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Local leaders near Arches National Park have asked the park to consider a similar timed-entry system. The park has already closed its gates more than 80 times this year due to heavy visitation.

The National Park Service continues to encourage people to explore less visited sites.

"About half of all our recreation visits are occurring at only the top 23 most-visited parks," NPS regional director Michael T. Reynolds in a Senate Subcommittee on National Parks hearing on overcrowding in late July.

There are 423 sites within the national park system.

Copyright 2021 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC. All rights reserved. From https://www.usatoday.com. By Eve Chen, USA TODAY.

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