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Death Valley seeks public input on possible fee increases

Death Valley National Park is asking for the public’s input regarding possible camping and entrance fee increases.

Most park fees have remained steady since 2006 and the extra funds will be needed in the coming years to help fund emergency medical services, campground custodial work, and educational programs.

In addition, the main focus of Death Valley’s fee increases in the next few years will be restoring Scotty’s Castle after it was damaged by flash flooding in the fall.

To help raise additional funds, the National Park Service is also considering charging a fee for temporary tours into Grapevine Canyon to Scotty’s Castle.

Park fee revenue is vital to all national parks, including Death Valley, made evident by recent projects such as campground improvements, special events such like BioBlitz in March and Celestial Centennial in April, ranger-led educational programs, printing park brochures and upgrades to visitor use areas at Badwater, Stovepipe Wells, and Father Crowley Point.

Scotty’s Castle and the surrounding Grapevine Canyon have been closed to all public access since flash flooding occurred on October 18.

The park plans to use park entrance fees to fund about one-third of the total $26 million cost of repairing damage at Scotty’s Castle in order to be able to reopen the site to the public.

From 2016 to 2019, about $8.7 million in fee revenue would be spent on Scotty’s Castle flood projects.

The Federal Highway Administration will fund an estimated $7 million in repairs to Scotty’s Castle Road, which will be used with any park fees put toward the work as well.

Regional and national offices of the National Park Service will fund about $10.5 million in projects. Those projects include the restoration of the Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center, electrical repairs, Hacienda building repairs, parking lot repairs, walkway repairs, replacing HVAC systems and constructing a flood control diversion dike.

If all funding and work goes as planned, Scotty’s Castle will be fully open to the public again in 2019. All of Grapevine Canyon and Scotty’s Castle district are closed to the public until repairs are done.

Despite the closure, Death Valley could offer a Scotty’s Castle Flood Tour to provide ranger-guided access to Scotty’s Castle in a safe manner before the construction projects are completed. The tour would open up another stream of money that could go toward repairing the popular destination within Death Valley.

The tour would be two hours in length and limited to groups of 15 or less, and would begin and end at Grapevine Ranger Station. Tours would only be offered when conditions are safe enough and adequate staffing is available.

“With Scotty’s Castle closed and many facilities impacted, this is a one-of-a-kind and spectacular opportunity to see Scotty’s Castle in a different way,” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “Through these tours, we plan to provide a safe way for visitors to learn about the history of Scotty’s Castle and to see the power of the flash flood.

“The flood pushed a wall off its foundation. It lifted up the road and laid it back down on top of rocks. People don’t often get to see such impressive reminders of the power of nature. It’s a good way to appreciate the geologic forces that are still creating and shaping the landscape of Death Valley.”

Public comments are due by June 29, and can be recorded at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/DEVAfee. Written comments can also be mailed to:

Death Valley National Park

ATTN: Fee Proposal

P.O. Box 579

Death Valley, CA 92328

Public feedback is one factor that will be used to make a final decision on raising park fees. If implemented, new fees would be effective October 1, 2016.

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