Estes Park mayor asking Park Service not to hike RMNP fees

If attendance at the park drops, Estes Park fears a drop in business there.

The mayor of Estes Park is asking the U.S. Park Service not to hike peak season fees at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Trump administration's proposal would fund park maintenance by increasing the day rate from $20 to $70 per car, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person

Mayor Todd Jirsa said he fears a dip in tourism numbers because of the hike, so much so he’s written to the U.S. Park Service asking for an alternative plan.

“Frankly our town government, because of the sales tax collected, really depends on those visitors coming,” Jirsa said in a phone interview.

While Jirsa has a big-picture view of the impacts, local business owners are more focused on their own livelihood.

“My first reaction was wow that seems a little excessive,” said Ron Wilcocks, who owns Earthwood Artisans in Estes Park. “Any business owner [will say] anything you more than triple the price of, you're putting yourself in jeopardy.”

Wilcocks said while the town he’s lived in for more than 18 years is diversifying how it gets its income, it still relies heavily on tourism. If those numbers dwindle because of the fee hike, like some fear, it could mean less business.

“Maybe bump [the daily fee] up to $25, maybe come up with some other idea for day trippers,” Wilcocks suggested.

Jirsa also fears RMNP would actually lose money because of the fee increase.

For $80, people can buy the America the Beautiful pass, which allows entrance to any national park in the country for a year for $80, only $10 more than the proposed $70 daily fee.

If people buy that pass online, and not at RMNP, RMNP would receive little to none of that money, a drawback Jirsa thinks could hurt the park more than help it.

“I think we all understand the need to address the maintenance backlog but I think we need to be careful how we do it,” he said.

For more information on the proposed fee hike, and to make your voice heard, click here.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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