Below is my letter to Denali National Park protesting the proposed fee increase. $200 is already too much. $500 is way too much. You should write one too, here.
To Whom it May Concern,
One of the small beauties of climbing mountains is that it's fairly accessible. No, the gear isn't cheap, even secondhand. And no, not everyone has mountains in their backyard. Of course there are entrance barriers. But compare climbing mountains to riding horses, sailing boats, or racing cars. Compare it to skydiving, or SCUBA, or skiing. There are thousands of ways to seek challenge and adventure in this world, and one of the small beauties of climbing mountains is that they are there for everyone. That's why representatives of the citizens of this great country saw fit to preserve the "crown jewels" of our environment - to preserve them as they are, to be enjoyed by everyone.
A $500 fee is a significant entrance barrier. A $200 fee is a significant entrance barrier. I know, because my friend Max and I are planning a trip to Denali this spring. We each won $600 grants from the American Alpine Club, but still there is an enormous amount of money to raise. We've both just graduated from college and have significant debt, but we love climbing enough to manage that while making this trip happen. Max is working three crappy jobs, while I'm working occasionally as a substitute teacher and writing letters to companies for sponsorship. The current fee of $200 is already a weighty burden for us.
The Park Service has always done extraordinary things for climbers - and not least among them are the rescue services sometimes required and always provided. We appreciate that. Seeking challenge amidst genuine danger is part of the allure of climbing mountains, and climbers should always strive to be self-reliant, but it's nice to know that if things go really, really wrong, there might still just be a chance.
But we're not all rich, thrill-seeking guided tourists. Some of us are debt-ridden lovers of mountains. I don't know for sure, but my guess is that raising the per-person fee to $15 and the per-vehicle fee to $30 would raise the same revenue as raising the mountaineering fees for Foraker and Denali. A 50% raise, and one that amounts to $5 or $10 dollars, is a lot more reasonable than a 150% raise amounting to $300. It's okay to expect mountaineers to pay a special fee for special services; but $500 is too much. Let some of the park's costs be offset by all the other visitors, just as emergency medical services are there for everyone, even though it's drunk drivers, the obese and the elderly who use them most.
Don't turn mountain climbing into downhill skiing: a sport for the rich.