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Denali fees to double

Posted: Friday, April 23, 2004

ANCHORAGE The National Park Service next January plans to double the price of entry to Denali National Park and Preserve, with the extra money to be used for backlogged maintenance and other projects.

And for the first time, mountaineers and ''flightseers'' who land in the park will be charged entrance fees, NPS spokesperson Kris Fister said Monday.

Beginning Jan. 1, fees will increase from $5 to $10 per person and from $10 to $20 per family. The price of an annual pass to the park will go up from $20 to $40.

The changes are expected to bring in an extra $1 million a year, the Park Service said.

Most of that money in 2005 will be earmarked for rehabilitating trails, installing fire suppression equipment, upgrading the phone system and supporting educational programs, the Park Service said.

Charging the fees to flightseers and mountaineers levels the playing field for all park visitors, Fister said.

''It's easy for us to collect entrance fees from bus passengers, but there are other people who are accessing the park, and we just want to make it fair,'' she said.

Fister said park officials were still looking at how to collect fees from others who don't use the park entrance, such as dog mushers and snowmachiners.

''Those are issues that are still in the development and planning process,'' she said.

In 2003, Denali National Park had 359,840 visitors and collected $1.2 million in entrance fees. The number of visitors is expected to be similar this year, Fister said.

Of last year's visitors, 9,792 were flightseeing passengers and 2,039 were air taxi drop-offs, according to NPS figures.

Six flightseeing and air taxi operators fly into the park. Two companies contacted by The Associated Press said they were concerned about the increase in fees.

They say the flightseers spend much less time in the park and don't use the resources of those who visit Denali by bus.

''They're not using Porta-Potties, they're not using the roads,'' said Doug Geeting Aviation manager Jesse Brown, whose company flies tourists and climbers into Denali. She said she opposed the Park Service collecting fees from her customers.

Suzanne Rust, co-owner of K2 Aviation, said her main concern was the how the agency would collect the fees.

Rust said she didn't believe an entrance fee for customers would hurt her business, although she said she believed $10 was too steep.

''For our flightseeing tours, I would prefer seeing $5 because people are on the glacier for 20 minutes,'' Rust said.

Mountaineers already pay a $150 permit fee to climb Mount McKinley and Mount Foraker. Some 1,179 people registered to climb Mount McKinley and 36 registered for Mount Foraker last year.

Registration this year is on track to top 1,200 climbers, Fister said.



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