2017-12-07 / Local News

Youth’s drawing highlights park passes that include fee increase

Pass fees to double over 2 years
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

TYLER YOUNG’S art will was chosen in a contest that attracted 153 entrants. TYLER YOUNG’S art will was chosen in a contest that attracted 153 entrants. Tyler Young’s drawing of a mother and two bears resting on the Manitou islands and sand dunes is bound to be a best-seller for visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

On a related note, those visitors will be paying more for that pass, starting Jan. 1.

Young submitted the winning entry for the park’s annual contest to find just-the-right design for the front of the Lakeshore’s annual pass, which sells more than 11,000 copies each year.

Young, 12, resides in Interlochen. His drawing was selected from a panel of Lakeshore employees that pored over 153 entries. For his efforts, Young will receive a selection of gifts from the Lakeshore’s concession located in the Visitors Center in Empire.

Second place went to Jake Dennis, 10, of Tustin, while third place was awarded Daniel Chia, 6, from Alhambra, Calif.

Young was also scheduled to receive an Annual Park Entrance Pass, which she and her family gave to runner-up Dennis as they will soon be moving away from the area.

In 2018, more than the cover of the pass is expected to change after the Lakeshore sought public input this summer for a second fee increase in two years.

Lakeshore deputy superintendent Tom Ulrich said he has not received a definitive decision on a plan to increase park fees, including the annual pass, by one-third or more. But he expects the proposal to receive the green light after few objections were raised over the summer during a public comment period.

“We didn’t get that many comments,” Ulrich reported. We got way more when we raised it two years ago. Comments actually went 2-for-1 for support, and people said that you do things with the money that directly impact the visitor,” Ulrich said.

Indeed, entrance and other fees charged to park users generate $2.5 million annually, of which 80 percent stays within the Lakeshore budget and must be used in ways that improve visitor experiences. At Sleeping Bear Dunes, those activities include hiring staff to operate the Visitors Center in Empire, campground maintenance, and preserving historical buildings in the Port Oneida Historic District.

“It can even pay for better wildlife viewing, which might include clearing out invasive species,.” Rulrich said.

Recently the National Park Service has directed that local parks direct 55 percent of fee funding toward longterm maintenance projects that had been put off for years, such as keeping up roads, trails and buildings.

Some of those projects budgeted in 2018 in the Lakeshore include:

 $96,000 to repair hiking trails throughout the park;

 $83,000 to replace water fountains and install back-up wells;

 $83,000 to remove dead trees from hiking trails that have become hazards for hikers. Most of the dangerous trees are ash that were killed by emerald ash borer infestations;

 $35,000 to maintain the Village Barn on North Manitou Island, which is used for storage and as a shop for ranger projects;

 $17,000 to replace amphitheater seats at the Platte Campground; and

 $24,000 to replace failing septic drain fields in the Platte River Campground.

On Jan. 1, 2016, the Lakeshore raised its annual pass from $20 to $30, and its seven-day pass from $10 to $15.

The latest wave of fee increases, which are expected to begin Jan. 1, will move the fees to $40 and $20, respectively. Most other Lakeshore fees will also increase, including those for camping at D.H. Day campground. Group and backcountry camping permits will also rise.

Ulrich said the reaction locally was mild compared to a backlash felt at 17 venerable national parks including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Yosemete, where fees are scheduled to increase more than 50 percent. The weekly pass at those parks will jump from $30 to $70 per vehicle. At other parks, the increase will be three-fold, from $25 to $75.

“Most of the objections here were m ore idealogical. People were saying, ‘We pay taxes, we shouldn’t have to pay an entrance fee, too’ I’m paraphrasing, but it’s, ‘The government is trying to gouge me...’ But those were in the minority,” Ulrich said.

Only about one-third of national parks charge entrance fees.

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