HOMESTEAD, Fla– Starting on October 1, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks will increase entrance fees for visitors in order to fund important maintenance and improvement projects within the park. Everglades and Dry Tortugas have not increased park-wide fees since 1997.
“This increase in fees will allow us to continue to protect, preserve and share the special places at Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks with current visitors and future generations. After carefully considering the impact of a fee increase on visitors and community members, we came to the conclusion that this is the right course of action to improve facilities and services important to visitors,” said Superintendent Pedro Ramos.
Entrance fees have supported a wide range of projects that improve the park and visitor experiences, including trailhead signs, developing and installing exhibits in visitor centers, improving park water systems, providing ranger-led programs, and improving Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility. An example is the new Shark Valley Visitor Center, which was partially funded with Recreation Fees.
Additional revenue from this fee increase will address deferred maintenance project costs for parks around the country. The National Park Service defines “deferred maintenance” as work activities that were not performed when scheduled on fixed assets (such as a bridge) and subsequently delayed until the future (most often due to funding constraints). These assets are necessary to provide the public an enjoyable experience in harmony with resource protection which is the economic engine for local communities across the nation. In Florida, the deferred maintenance amount comes to almost $192 million. According to Deputy Superintendent Justin Unger, the cost of Everglades National Park’s deferred maintenance comes to almost $63 million. At Dry Tortugas National Park, that number is closer to $56.5 million.
In the fall of 2014, the National Park Service conducted a nationwide review of entrance fees. To solicit public input, a civic engagement campaign was launched in December 2014 and January 2015 regarding the Everglades and Dry Tortugas proposals. During the public comment period, input was solicited by the park from local officials and the public through 5 public meetings held throughout the area. Briefings were also provided for Congressional, nearby Federal, State, County and City officials, and stakeholder groups.
The new marine waters boater education program, which is expected to soon be approved as part of Everglades National Park's General Management Plan, is being developed and is expected to be available in 2016. More information about the program will be announced well in advance of the course's launch date so that the public is aware of course details as soon as possible.
WHAT: Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks will increase entrance fees for visitors in order to fund important maintenance and improvement projects within the park. (Please see the attached chart for more details.)
WHEN: Starting on October 1, 2015
WHERE: Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks
For information and directions to the park please visit the park websites at http://www.nps.gov/ever or http://www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm or call (305) 242-7700 (during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).