The nation's national park system needs money and it's reasonable for visitors to participate. Still, entry fee increases proposed at Crater Lake National Park and Lava Beds National Monument may be approaching a point where they deter visits. That's not in the public interest.
The Park Service has a proposed a fee increase starting in 2008 from $10 to $20 at Crater Lake and $10 to $15 at Lava Beds. The fee is for the basic seven-day pass for a single car and its occupants. Other fees would go up as well.
Undoubtedly the Park Service can make a case for its need. Eighty percent of the entrance fees do stay local. Both installations can point to significant changes and improvements in the past few years.
Lava Beds and Crater Lake also intend to continue to offer a joint annual pass good at both parks. In addition, entry fees at the local installations are lower than they are at some other national parks. The seven-day entry fees for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are already at $20, and Yosemite is $25. But it's fair to guess that many of these other Park Service entry fees will be going up in the push to make visitors shoulder more of the cost of improvements.
Even with the explanations, entry fees of $15 and $20 for a car still look like too much enough to keep people from going.
Yes, we know, a car full of kids or teens headed for the movies will pay more to get in to see "Charlotte's Web" or "Blood Diamond."
But public taxes don't subsidize those movies, as they do the park system, and there's little important public interest served by encouraging people to see movies. There is a public purpose, though, in encouraging people to go to national parks, and they have already paid something toward entry fees through taxes.
National parks commemorate great historic or geologic events. There's no question of the geology involved at both parks the lava flows that inundated Lava Beds, or the nation's deepest lake that formed when Mount Mazama erupted and fell in thousands of years ago at Crater Lake.
As for history, people who have only heard or read of Captain Jack and the Modocs' fight against U.S. soldiers can appreciate the struggle there far better by walking through the jagged lava flows. Such visits help them understand the area's history and culture.
The federal government should not discourage people from visiting the national parks and missing the educational aspects that come along with those visits. Yet that seems to be the direction large fee increases will likely take the park system.
(Klamath Falls) Herald and News