Just two years after increasing entrance and camping fees, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is now weighing a second round of increases to place it in line with fees charged by similar parks.
Under the proposed plan, the entrance fee per vehicle would increase from $15 to $20. The fee for individuals on foot or bicycle would jump from $7 to $10, while the fee for motorcycles would go from $10 to $15. The cost of an annual pass would increase from $30 to $40.
Entrance passes are valid for seven days and provide access to all of the seashore’s areas, including Fort Pickens, Johnson Beach, Opal Beach, Fort Barrancas, and the Okaloosa Day Use Area.
The National Park Service established a new nationwide entrance fee rate structure in 2014, with a goal for all parks to implement the new rates by 2017. Officials began “phasing in” the new rates with fee increases in 2015. If officials move forward with this second round of increases, that’ll mean an overall 150-400 percent hike in fees since 2014.
“We are committed to keeping the park affordable, but also want to provide visitors with the best possible experience,” said Dan Brown, the seashore’s superintendent.
Most of the money from entrance and camping fees is retained by Gulf Islands National Seashore and used to help repair, improve, or replace visitor facilities, officials said. Recent capital projects have included installing new restrooms with hot water showers in all loops of the Fort Pickens campground as well as the restoration of the historic mine storeroom building. Planned projects include the construction of new handicap-accessible campsites at the Fort Pickens campground, a new free shuttle service within the Fort Pickens Area, the repair and opening of the historic Battery 234 observation tower, and the replacement of the picnic pavilion and restrooms at Battery Worth.
In addition to the entrance fee increases, the seashore is also planning to establish a tent-only section in the Fort Pickens campground and to increase some camping fees. Tent camping fees would remain at $26 per night, but the cost for RV campsites with hookups at the Fort Pickens campground would increase from $26 to $40 per night.
If approved, the proposed fee changes would take effect October 1, 2017. Public comments about the proposed fees can be submitted via email [email protected], online at parkplanning.nps.gov, or by mail to Gulf Islands National Seashore Fee Program, 1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563. Comments are due by July 7.