Park Service expands comment period for proposed entry fee price hike

Park Service expands comment period for proposed entry fee price hike
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The National Park Service is giving the public an extra month to comment on its proposal to hike entry fees at popular parks.

The public comment period for the proposal expanded Tuesday to allow for another month of input, according to the Park Service website. The agency was originally due to take comments through Thanksgiving, but its new deadline is Dec. 22.

The Park Service in a statement that it was extending the comment period "to accommodate interest in this issue from members of Congress and the public." The agency said it had received more than 65,000 comments on the proposal.

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The Interior Department proposed hiking peak-season entry fees at 17 of the country’s most popular national parks as a way to help pay for systemwide infrastructure improvements.

The Park Service has a large maintenance backlog, an issue that worries the agency’s supporters in the Trump administration, Congress and across the country. Even so, President Trump proposed cutting the National Park Service’s budget by 12.9 percent earlier this year.

A Senate appropriations bill released Monday would provide more funding for maintenance. Interior says its proposal will raise entrance fee revenues by $68.6 million, or 34.3 percent, annually.

Democrats and national park groups have slammed the fee increase proposal, saying Congress and the administration should fund the maintenance backlog, not park visitors.

—Updated at 3:52 p.m.