All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation have come out in opposition to a proposal by the Department of the Interior that would raise the entrance fee at 17 popular national parks, including Acadia.

Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, sent a joint letter Thursday asking the Department of the Interior to reconsider the idea because of its potential economic impact.

They wrote that “365 days a year, Acadia National Park – one of the crown jewels of the National Park System – serves as a tremendous resource for the people of Maine and the visitors who come here.

“From May through October, it sustains a vibrant economy in the region, bringing millions of visitors across the country and the world to the coast of Maine.”

The fee increase proposal, announced this week, is meant to help address a maintenance backlog in the park system. As drafted, it would nearly triple the cost of vehicle passes at Acadia, from $25 to $70. In addition to per-vehicle costs, entrance fees for individuals would rise from $12 to $30, while the fee for motorcyclists would jump from $20 to $50 during the peak season.

Nationally, the fee increases would generate an additional $70 million in annual revenue, which would be used to address more than $11 billion in deferred maintenance, including $71 million at Acadia.

“Like most other parks, Acadia has felt the strain of the maintenance backlog, in part due to this sustained visitation. While we recognize that this proposal would bring additional revenue to the park, we are not certain that this would either solve the problem or outweigh the risk to the local community of making the park more difficult to visit,” the senators wrote.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican whose 2nd District includes Acadia, also has expressed concern.

“This proposal for drastic price increases came as a surprise to me, and I worry about the negative impact it will have for attracting tourists to the park and preventing Mainers from enjoying its beauty,” Poliquin said in an email this week. “I encourage all Mainers to submit comments to the National Park Service about this unfair proposal.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said Thursday she plans to review the fee increase proposal and worries that it might put parks like Acadia “out of reach for working families.”

“I’ve sat in hearings and heard from Mainers about these issues and feel strongly that Congress must make full funding for our park systems a priority, but solely raising user fees is not the way to do it,” Pingree said in a statement. “Americans of all income levels deserve to enjoy our public parks and shouldn’t go broke in the process.”

Collins and King suggested alternative solutions, including leveraging excess mineral revenues to create a National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund or establishing a Conservation Service Corps that would engage veterans’ organizations and others on volunteer-driven projects.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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