BRYCE, Garfield County — As backcountry trips at Bryce Canyon National Park become more popular, park officials are proposing a permit fee increase to help them catch up with the rising cost of maintenance.
The plan calls for a $15 fee for a backcountry permit with an additional fee of $7 per person per day beginning in 2022. It would replace the current fee, which is $5 per person.
"We are committed to providing access to our backcountry," said Bryce Canyon National Park Superintendent Jim Ireland, in a statement Friday. "The money from backcountry permits will ensure we can continue to provide an exceptional visitor experience."
Park officials said overnight stays within the park's backcountry have increased 36% over the past 10 years but the price of fees hasn't changed. As a result, revenue from permit sales hasn't kept up with rises in maintenance and administration costs.
According to National Park Service visitation data, about 1.3 million people visited Bryce Canyon National Park in 2011. It rose to over 2.5 million visits every year in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before visitation dropped to nearly 1.5 million last year as a result of COVID-19. Over 1 million people have already visited the park this year, according to visitation data through June 2021.
About 80% of the fee money goes back to the park, according to officials. It covers staff costs, as well as safety information, search and rescue efforts, free loans of wildlife-resistant food containers, as well as backcountry campsite and trail improvements, such as improved signage and tent pads.
The increased fees would still go to those services and also help make permits available for sale online through Recreation.gov. Officials added those in the Golden Age and Access Pass programs will continue to receive a 50% discount on any backcountry permit fees.
No other park fees would change under the proposed plan.
A 30-day public comment period on the fee proposal opened Friday. People can submit their feedback on the plan online in several ways. They can do so on the National Park Service park planning website, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or sending their feedback through messages on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The deadline is Sept. 6.
People can also drop off written comments to the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center by 5 p.m. on Sept. 6. Comments can also be sent by mail to: Superintendent / Bryce Canyon National Park / PO Box 640201 / Bryce, UT 84764.