The National Park Service (NPS) is examining approaches to recover more of the cost of the mountaineering program in Denali National Park and Preserve. As part of the public involvement process, the NPS is holding two public open houses in January to provide information on the mountaineering program and how the special mountaineering use fee is utilized. The cities, dates, locations, and times of the open houses are:
- Seattle, Washington – Monday, January 17, REI Flagship Store, 222 Yale Ave. N, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
At 7:00 p.m. Denali staff will give one 30-40 minute presentation on the mountaineering program and fee at each open house. Official public testimony will not be taken, but park staff will be available before and after the presentation to provide information and answer questions.
- Golden, Colorado – Tuesday, January 18, American Mountaineering Center, 710 10th St., 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Currently each climber of Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker pays a cost recovery mountaineering use fee of $200. Income from this special use fee helps fund some of the cost of the mountaineering program, including preventative search and rescue (PSAR) education, training for rescue personnel, positioning of patrol/rescue personnel (including volunteers) at critical high altitude locations on the mountain, the CMC (human waste) program, and administrative support. Since the cost recovery fee was implemented in 1995, the number of fatalities and major injuries has decreased significantly. This is directly attributable to the increased educational and PSAR efforts made possible through the cost recovery program.
When the special use fee was initially established it covered approximately 30% of the cost of this specialized program. Even though the fee was increased from $150 to $200 in 2005, current fee revenue only covers 17% of the cost. McKinley/Foraker climbers make up less than 1⁄2 of 1 percent of the park’s visitors, and in 2011 Denali will expend approximately $1,200 in direct support of each permitted climber. The average cost for all other visitors is expected to be about $37. In recent years, the park has diverted funds from other critical park programs in order to fully fund the mountaineering program. This has negatively impacted funding available for interpretation, wildlife protection, resource management, and maintenance.
The NPS is seeking input and ideas regarding two key questions:
- Is the current mountaineering program the most cost effective efficient and safe program we can devise?
- How much of the cost should be recovered from users, and what options are there for how those costs can be distributed?
Comments from the public will be accepted through January 31, 2011. Comments may be submitted via email to: DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov or faxed to (907) 683-9612. They may also be sent to: Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755.
For additional information on the mountaineering program or the cost recovery special use fee visit the park website at www. nps.gov/dena. If you have questions about the fee you may contact Chief Ranger Pete Armington at (907) 683-9521 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Media inquiries should be directed to Public Affairs Officer Kris Fister at (907) 683-9583 or email@example.com.
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--Jason D. Martin