Long-planned increases to entrance and camping fees will go into effect on January 1, 2018 at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, officials announced Monday.
Entrance fees per vehicle will jump from $15 to $20, while the fee for individuals on foot or bicycle will go from $7 up to $10. The entrance fee for motorcycles will increase from $10 to $15.
Entrance passes are valid for seven days and provide access to all areas within the seashore, including Fort Pickens, Johnson Beach, Opal Beach, Fort Barrancas, and Okaloosa. Entrance fees aren’t charged to those under 16 years of age or to holders of the Senior Pass, Active Duty Military Pass, and other annual passes.
The cost of annual passes will jump from $30 per year to $40.
The new fees will bring the park in line with other national seashores as part of an nationwide effort by the National Park Service to establish a new fee structure which began back in 2014. Gulf Islands fees previously went up in 2015 as part of a phased approach to the fee increases. With this second round of increases, fees will have jumped between 150 and 400 percent since 2014.
Camping fees at the seashore will also increase, with the cost for RV campsites with hookups at the Fort Pickens Campground jumping from $26 per night up to $40. Park officials plan to establish a tent-only section in the campground, with tent camping fees remaining at $26 per night. Senior and Access Pass holders receive a 50 percent discount on camping fees. The increases will make the seashore’s camping fees more comparable with those of other RV camping facilities in the area to avoid unfair competition, officials said, and will offset increased utility costs for hookups.
The fee increases were proposed in June, and park officials say there’s been a “mostly positive public response.”
“We are committed to keeping the park affordable, but also want to provide visitors with the best possible experience,” said Superintendent Dan Brown.
Most of the money from entrance and camping fees is retained by the national seashore and used to help repair, improve, or replace visitor facilities. Recent 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 construction of new handicap-accessible campsites at the campground, a new free shuttle service within the Fort Pickens Area, the repair and opening of the historic Battery 234 Observation Tower, and replacing the picnic pavilion and restrooms at Battery Worth.