SPRINGDALE, Washington County — Zion National Park officials first instituted a temporary timed ticket system for its shuttle service amid COVID-19 concerns last year.
The cost of a ticket could now be doubled under a new proposal that went up for public comment Friday.
Park officials said they would increase the fee from $1 to $2 per shuttle ticket. The additional dollar would cover staffing and operational costs of the ticket system that was installed last summer.
"Staff are needed in multiple locations to assist ticket holders, answer questions about the shuttle system and other opportunities in the park, provide critical safety information, manage queue lines and assist in loading shuttles," officials wrote in a news release.
It's expected that the ticket system will remain in place through this summer and possibly into fall, according to park officials. The need for a cost increase, they added, is because they said they want to provide the same level of assistance amid a dramatic spike in park visitation since the system was first put in place.
Zion National Park visitation was below average during the summer last year but it experienced a surge in visitation last fall and that continued into 2021. The park has already broken visitation records for the first three months of the year.
It's estimated that nearly 430,000 people visited to park in March, according to preliminary data by the National Park Service. If confirmed, that would break the previous March record by over 55,000 visitors.
The start of 2021 is also well ahead of the start of 2017, which is the year that a record 4.5 million people visited the park. It's also estimated that 762,434 visitors have arrived at Zion National Park already this year, which is more than 200,000 more than the first three months of 2017.
And that's possibly just the beginning. The summer months are when Zion National Park typically receives the most visitors.
"Visitation has increased dramatically from early pandemic levels, necessitating reestablishment of visitor services and work can no longer be delayed on critical park projects, and it is therefore no longer financially feasible to absorb operational costs associated with the ticketing system," officials wrote.
Park officials added that the fee will only remain in place while the ticket system is "needed" to address public health requirements. That means the fee would expire the moment the system is no longer needed.
The public comment period of the proposal will wrap up on April 25. Anyone can submit a comment through the National Park Service website, by email to Zion_Visitor_Use@nps.gov or by mail to: ZION Superintendent / ATTN: Shuttle System Fee / 1 Zion Park Blvd. State Route 9 / Springdale, UT 84767.