Dunes increases entrance fees in January

Fee increases at the Great Sand Dunes National Park will be used to maintain infrastructure and enhance visitor experience./Courier file photo

SAND DUNES — This past spring, the National Park Service (NPS) announced service-wide fee increases to provide additional funding for infrastructure and maintenance needs to enhance the visitor experience. 

As a result, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will modify its entrance fees. Effective January 1, 2019, the entrance fees to the park will be $25 per vehicle or $20 per motorcycle. An annual park pass will cost $45.

Revenue from entrance fees remains in the National Park Service and helps ensure a quality experience for all who visit. At Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, at least 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park for spending towards enhancing the visitor experience. The park shares the other 20 percent of entry fee income with other national parks for their projects.

In response to public comments on a fee proposal released in October 2017, there will be a modest increase for all entrance fee-charging parks, rather than the higher peak-season fees initially proposed for only 17 highly-visited national parks.

National parks have experienced record breaking visitation, with more than 1.5 billion visitors in the last five years. Throughout the country, the combination of an aging infrastructure and increased visitation has put a strain on park roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services and led to a $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog nationwide.

“Entrance fees collected at Great Sand Dunes support infrastructure projects that enhance the visitor’s experience,” stated Superintendent Pam Rice. “In recent years, the park has been able to use fee revenue to maintain, repair and improve our facilities, enhance essential visitor services such as events and programs, restore critical habitat for the wildlife that visitors come to see and enjoy, and to support our law enforcement rangers in their public safety duties.” 

The additional revenue from entrance fees at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will support the renovation of the visitor center interior exhibits, replacement of water distribution lines in the Pinon Flats Campground and the Mosca Creek Picnic Area, restoration of Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout habitat along Sand Creek, replacement of exterior doors on comfort stations and visitor center, and rehabilitation of the entrance station.

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016.  The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million. 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has collected entrance fees since 1997. The current rate of $20 per vehicle or $15 per motorcycle has been in effect since January 1, 2018. The park is one of 117 National Park Service sites that charges an entrance fee. The other 300 national parks will remain free to enter.

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80. 

The National Park Service has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Entrance fees at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve are in-line with this fee structure. Other parks not yet aligned with their category will raise their fees incrementally and fully incorporate the new entrance fee schedule by January 1, 2020.

The complete fee schedule will change according to the following:

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