The park service would more than double fees for visitors to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Zion to $70 a car. At other parks, the fee would be nearly tripled.
The agency expects the increased fees to raise $70 million a year.
“I don’t think people always fully appreciate the fact that the water you drink, the roads you drive on, even the trails you hike on those all not only cost money to build, they also require revenue to keep maintained,” said Jeremy Barnum, a National Park Service spokesman.
Barnum said most of the parks remain free.
Latino Outdoors founder José González said he understands the need for repairs but he worries about the increased fees discouraging many people.
“For other communities for whom they have been excluded or they don’t feel they’re welcome, then that only reinforces the idea of ‘well, then that’s not for us,'" González said.
Emily Douce, government affairs director of budget and appropriations for the National Parks Conservation Association, called the increased fees “drastic.” She said, Congress should handle the problem. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would use current revenue sources to address the maintenance backlog.
Public comments on the fees are due by Nov. 23.