Like many national parks around the country, V.I. National Park will increase its fees to visit the popular Trunk Bay Beach and fees for boats to use its moorings scattered around the island. The increases are effective Jan. 1.
“Park budgets are stagnant and the cost of business has gone up,” Deputy Superintendent Jayne Schaeffer said Thursday as she discussed the need to increase the fees.
The fees to use Trunk Bay will increase from $4 to $5 for an individual day pass. The price for an individual annual pass will go from $10 to $20. The annual family pass price rises from $15 to $30.
The Trunk Bay fees are not charged for children under age 16.
Holders of the national America the Beautiful Pass, which allows access into all national parks and other federal facilities such as national forests for $80 a year, get half off the entrance fee.
Those with federal recreational passes available to seniors, those with accessibility issue passes and members of the military with passes will also get half off the entrance fee.
Seniors pay $10 for a lifetime pass available when they turn 62. A lifetime accessibility pass is free for people with a permanent disability. Members of the military also get a free pass while they are on active duty.
Schaeffer said the half off discount at Trunk Bay is only available to those holding the pass, not the entire group such as it works for most park entrance fees on the mainland.
Boaters using park moorings will find the nightly fee increased from $15 to $26. If they have to anchor in either of the two authorized locations, the fee will be $26, also an increase from $15. Pass holders get half off the fee but Schaeffer said everyone on the boat will be covered by the one pass.
Unlike many parks on the mainland, V.I. National Park has no entrance gates and no entrance fee. Schaeffer said the fee paid at Trunk Bay and for use of the moorings is called a special amenity fee. Parks on the mainland also charge a special amenity fee to use campgrounds and other facilities.
This park began working on the fee increases by holding an open house Jan. 28. It was sparsely attended but Schaeffer said a few people did submit comments. Comments were overwhelmingly supportive of a few increase, a park press release indicated. The park then got permission from the National Park Service to increase fees.
The park began collecting fees under a special Park Service program at Trunk Bay and Annaberg Plantation in June 1998. Collection at Annaberg was discontinued a few years later. It began collecting to use the moorings in 2003.
The fees haven’t increased at Trunk Bay or for the moorings since they began.
“The best thing about the fee program is that the park keeps approximately 77 percent of the money collected in the park for park projects,” park Superintendent Brion FitzGerald said.
He said that in 2014, fee revenues were used to rehabilitate the restrooms at the park visitor center in Cruz Bay. In 2015 the Trunk Bay shower and restroom facilities received a facelift, including new fixtures, sky lights, roofs and gutters.
Additionally he said a contract is currently in place for pavement of the first half mile of the Francis Bay Road to eliminate the heavily eroded section. This will also use fee money.
“Additional revenue raised by the fee increase will continue to be used to better maintain all park facilities and ensure they remain in good condition,” FitzGerald said.
According to the press release, the park and adjacent V.I. Coral Reef National Monument are strong economic engines for the territory. In 2014, more than 400,000 park visitors spent $59,773,800 in communities near the parks. That spending supported 789 jobs related to tourism.
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