By Beth Dodd:
The entrance fee for Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is likely to double within the next couple of years, but the extra cash would directly support park projects.
At present, the park’s daily fee is $3 and an annual pass costs $15. According to the monument’s superintendent, Michelle Wheatley, these fees may jump to $7 and $30 in the near future.
To make the transition easier on the public, the rate increase would be phased in over time. An annual pass would cost $20 in 2015 and $30 by 2017. A daily pass would bump up to $5 per person in 2015, and go up to $7 per person by 2017. The new daily passes would be good for up to seven days, while the annual pass would admit the both the pass holder and their immediate family.
Before the fee change is finalized, the National Park Service is asking for public comment. The feedback the park receives will help determine how and when a fee increase would be implemented.
You can e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them on the park’s Facebook page. For the more traditional, you can write to the park superintendent or stop by the park’s visitor center to fill out a comment form in person. Comments will be accepted through January 8, 2015.
“We haven’t implemented the increase yet,” Wheatley stated. “It’s not a done deal. First we will start by reaching out to gauge support for possible fee changes from the local community.”
If the fee hike gets a green light, the NPS does not expect a big change in visitor numbers. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument attracted more than 58,000 visitors and contributed around $3.2 million to the local economy in 2013.
“The park fee is still a great value,” said Wheatley. “We are committed to keeping the park affordable, but we also want to provide visitors with the best possible experiences.”
Entrance fees at Florissant Fossil Beds have not increased since 2001, and there is a continuing need to pay for improvements to facilities and visitor services. Fees were first charged there in 1985, starting with $1 per person and $3 per family. In 1993, the fee increased to $2 per person and $4 per family. In 2001, the fee increased again to $3 per adult, and has remained at that price for the last thirteen years.
In comparison, the closest State Parks, Mueller and Eleven Mile, are $7 per day and $70 for an annual pass. The Pikes Peak Highway is $12 per adult and $40 per car during the summer season. The Royal Gorge is $16 per adult and $33 for a season pass. A matinee movie at Tinsel Town costs $6.75.
As a small park with an annual income of less the $500,000, Florissant Fossil Beds is allowed to keep 100% of the fees it collects. This means that any increase in fees would directly benefit the park, the local community, and park users.
For example, the orientation film in the visitor center theater, maintenance of the park’s fourteen miles of hiking trails, supplies for the Junior Ranger Program, repairs to the historic Hornbek Homestead, and interpretive signs have all been paid for with past entrance fee revenues. New revenue from fee increases in 2015 and 2017 could be used to enhance park amenities, protect park resources, and support additional visitor programs and services.