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This really stinks. I could see paying for a pass to one of the traditional isolated NO's. But C&O is a linear park frequented by many people living alongside it.

I predict the cost and hassle of trying to manage a fee collection system will out weigh any benefit.

Really kind of degrades the whole system.

I will only support this if NPS moves to a per-person fee across the board, rather than the current ridiculous system of per-car fees which are dramatically lower on a real basis than fees for hikers and bikers.

Charging at Fletcher's Cover would result in massive parking issues along MacArthur Blvd.

I'd still sneak in.

I strongly support the parks, but I don't see the practicality of charging for individual entrance on the towpath. How would they manage to do that? There are many places to access the towpath on foot or bike. I would support charging a parking fee at popular areas such as Fletchers and Carderock. They would probably need to use the "honor system", like what is in place in many National Forests - drivers drop the fee in a locked box and display a receipt on the dash. I don't think use level is high enough to justify a staffed entrance booth. I occasionally park at Carderock and have never seen more than ~5 cars there.

I also support the parks, but this seems like it will cost more to implement than they will bring in, and it's an inconvenience to all the people who run or bike on the path, who probably aren't carrying money with them in most cases. I always have the annual pass because I use the parks, but I still don't want to have to carry it around with me when I'm working out.

Charging at Fletcher's Cove would result in massive parking issues along MacArthur Blvd.

Actually it's very difficult to get to Fletcher's from the immediate neighborhood by anything other than car. I live 400 yards away and it's a minimum two mile bike ride to get down there. It's something the neighbors have been pressing for, for years.

If NPS' long-term plan is to impose use fees then restricting access makes sense, it's much easier to control automobiles than bikes or pedestrians.

As a paddler, I have questions. Would paddlers be charged for walking a few dozen yards on the towpath by Old Angler's Inn to gain access to the river? At Carderock, would paddlers be charged a fee, even though paddler and probably most hikers never set foot on the towpath at Carderock?

@DE, I could have written the exact same comment!

It also occurs to me that there could be problems with parking spilling out into adjacent free areas in the small towns along the trail. For example, users could still park for free in the large lot for the Western MD Rail Trail in Hancock, or in the town park, or curbside on residential streets. I am sure there are similar situations in Cumberland, Williamsport, Brunswick, etc.

Also the campsite fee is very high - if I read it right they are proposing $20 per person for camping, which means a family of 4 pays $80. That is a really high rate for camping at a site with few amenities.

@Purple Eagle: it's generally per-site for the campsites, not per-person. That's still absurd for the h-b sites, which (even though technically against the rules) are typically filled by people from a number of unrelated groups camping all over in un-assigned places. They'd need to completely rework the h-b model if they want to charge like they do for the other sites. I think charging for them at all is absurd, since the only amenities are the pump & porta-john, which are used by the day trippers as much as the campers.

It seems they are talking about fees at a limited number of sites with controllable automobile entry points. I think it will result in a shift to use of free entry points and, where nearby free parking is available (such as the locations Purple Eagle mentions), with attendant complaints by nearby residents. And I agree, the campling fee seems high. That may result in camping in unauthorized locations.

Will this give NPS an incentive to build a bridge from Palisades to Fletcher's boat house?

It's similar to the way everyone parks at Difficult Run to avoid paying at GFVA, or parks at Angler's Inn to avoid paying at GFMD. Those parking lots fill up fast and can be a cluster. If they are going to implement fees there, then people will move elsewhere.

Chris, I can't imagine they could get boaters for walking just a bit along the towpath. It's like when you attain up the canal and put in at GFMD--they don't have anyone stationed there to take your money and you just walk on down to the river.

However, you have to park somewhere, and Angler's Inn is a highly likely place to collect the fee.

BTW, the link gives an email address for comments through February 22. If you don't like this, it doesn't hurt to raise objections.

Personally I wish we funded the park service properly and everyone was allowed in without a fee, but since that's not the world we live in...

@Chris - if they are charging for parking, then of course you would need to pay if you park at Anglers. Regarding Carderock, the entire area is part of the park there, not just the towpath itself. So if you are hiking the Billy Goat Trail, using the picnic shelter, or rock climbing, you are using the park.

@Mike - regarding camping, at car campgrounds the fees are typically per-site. In the backcountry users are typically charged per person when there is a charge (or per permit). This is sort of a hybrid situation and it's not clear to me what they intend. I think something like $5 per person or $10 per "site" makes sense, though there are not really any designated sites at these campgrounds either so that is problematic.

The NPS is accepting your feedback on this here: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=63244

If you have concerns let them know!

Would be great to have the link in the original post.

@Purple Eagle: It looks like they're going for parity between the h-b sites and the existing drive in sites (e.g., Antietam). That implies a per site charge rather than a per-person charge. (Note that the official policy is that the h-b sites are single-group sites, just like one marked spot at Antietam.) That said, if they're going to charge for walking/biking the towpath, I don't see a point in charging anything more for camping at a h-b site.

What probably makes the most sense is to just have an honor system, post reasonable fees, and ask people to put in money at a few central locations. Those fees should be low on an individual basis--like a few bucks per day for someone going the length of the towpath. I fully support the idea of helping fund the infrastructure, but it's silly to pretend that an unreserved spot in the middle of the woods with no amenities is as valuable as a reserved full service spot (including bathroom & shower) at Prince William Forest. In fact, I suspect that the value of the h-b sites is below the cost of enforcing a fee. If they actually go with an honor system including 20 dollar h-b sites, the honorable people will feel horrible and most people just won't put in anything.

Honor box seems to work OK at Rosaryville State Park in MD, where we mountain bike. Seems like the best way to cheaply collect fees. So what if the "take" is less than the total number of actual users times the posted fee? Honor box also allows more affluent users to pay extra just because they can and want to support the park, while low income users can still use the park.

@Greenbelt, I agree. Maryland parks use this system in a number of places with light/moderate use, in some cases at places that have staffed entrance during busier periods (such as Cunningham Falls). All Delaware state parks use the same system. The Forest Service uses it in areas where they charge admission, including New Hampshire and the Pacific NW.

proposed fee increases also to affect Shenandoah NP and Great Falls



And the deadline to comment on the Shenandoah increase is today.

Wow, $25. The parks will only be for the rich at this rate. My comment is in.

The current fees already don't work because everybody (who's going to Great Falls, i.e.) parks illegally on the shoulders/bike path along MacArthur Blvd and this creates a really dangerous situation, especially for cyclists riding on MacArthur. If the NPS could get the police to enforce the no-parking rule, the park will benefit. I am for charging a modest parking fee at the regular lots (Great Falls, Carderock, Fletcher's) and massive enforcement against illegal parking along the road. (I don't see the point of charging walkers and bikers a fee, though.)

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