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Eric Hall

Should Zion National Park be Charging a "Toll?"

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This has been a constant source of irritation for me as I attend a motorcycle rally (Flying Monkey Adventure Rally) at Zion Ponderosa Ranch in Orderville, UT each year and am required to either pay the "toll" or drive an extra 52 miles/1 hour around vs the 11 mile public road through the park.  I think if it was free that the park probably couldn't handle the traffic but I think the full price of $30 for someone not even using the park isn't fair.

$30 is to actually use the park, as in hike, park, eat, camp, use the bathrooms, etc...I think something like $12 would be more equitable if you're just passing through.

Death Valley NP has no gates because it's on an interstate highway.  You're required to pay for a pass if you actually stop at any of the park's facilities.  Utah State Route 9 is clearly also a public road.

There was a court case a few years ago where a judge ruled the US Forest Service cannot effectively be charging for parking where people are just essentially passing through on a public road.  Hikers and motorcyclists and jeepers, etc... were required to buy the Adventure Pass or face a ticket if they're caught without it.  I think similarly here, the NPS isn't allowed to essentially charge a toll for using a public road.

Additionally, I've found not all national park service employees possess even basic skills of civility and have been treated very poorly on many occasions.  The guy at the gate was quite rude to me when I exclaimed "$30!?"  Four years earlier I'd attended with a girlfriend where I came the day before then she the day after.  We'd both paid entrance fees but on the second day we rode two up coming back through the park (again not using the park, just the public road) and we were required to pay for her as a passenger even though we'd both already paid individually.  And they were not nice about it.

What do you think?

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Buy the National Park Pass for all Parks for $80. Money well spent and no hassles. I get my monies worth every year between all the parks in the Western US. Well worth it! 

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@GeoMoto I hear you but it misses my point.  And then the logic becomes "it's better to pay $80 than $30." I wasn't there to use the park; I was there to ride Utah 9 for 11 miles.  I think a lower rate for just passing through or even a rain check to return and actually use the park another day would be a good idea.  I feel like I paid to use the park and didn't get my money's worth.  Like paying for an extra large pizza when I just wanted a glass of water.

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I spoke with a legislative analyst for one of the major off road advocacy groups and was told I may be onto something here.  They suggested I contact an experienced land use attorney (and subsequently recommended one) to write an amicus curiae (friend of the court) letter basically pointing out prior precedents (2014 Hatter decision) and suggesting NPS review their procedures here to see if there's a better way to manage traffic in the parks such as a reduced rate for those just passing through (on public roadways) or perhaps a voucher for a later free visit or money off an annual pass or something like that.

If it was a lower rate like $12 or they said I could buy an annual pass for $30 off or even if the gate ranger was less of a twit, I'd have felt much better about the whole thing.

I don't want to clog up Zion (or Yosemite, Glacier, Crater Lake, etc..) but there might be a better solution out there.

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