While generally supporting the park maintenance goals of the proposed fee increases, the proposed methods of raising and allocating funds for maintenance projects will negatively impact commercial tour companies, their employees, as well as traffic conditions within Yosemite and other parks.
This is especially true for small, local operators because the proposed changes will eliminate the small company, local area fees which create equity and help provide visitors with a wide range of tour choices. Small companies, as well as large ones, help to displace automobile traffic.so we can expect an increase in traffic and even greater degradation of the visitors’ Yosemite experiences than we have seen in recent years.
Smaller operations cannot hope to compete with large scale, distant operations. Small, local companies have very limited seating capacities and higher relative costs per customer.
I have analyzed the proposed fee increases based on our 2017 season, and the result of that exercise is truly alarming for me and my employees. We are located in Mariposa, CA, a rural “gateway” community that depends on Yosemite Park’s visitation to bring us a modest amount of income on which we depend. The internal analysis of my business’s 2017 season, when applied to the proposed fee increases WITHOUT the PEAK SEASON fees, shows that my total entrance fees for the coming year would TRIPLE, becoming ONE-THIRD OF GROSS REVENUES. However, because of Yosemite’s high mountain weather and visitation pattern, we can only operate during the PEAK SEASON. In the event that the peak season fees are implemented, THE ANNUAL ENTRANCE FEE SWOULD BE FIVE TIMES what was paid in 2017, and would be equal to NEARLY HALF OF GROSS REVENUES. There is no way that tour prices for small local companies can be raised enough to cover those costs. Let me be clear: If the proposed fees are implemented as planned, small local companies face extinction.
I recommend that the Dept. of Interior look to other sources of funding to take care of the maintenance backlog for which the fees are being proposed. One source of funding could be the oil, gas, and mining leases that are charged to corporations who extract their wealth from our public lands. Another huge source of income could from changing the tax code so that the ultra-rich who funnel their wealth into off-shore tax havens could be made to pay their fair share of taxes.
Kenneth Boche, President