Who doesn't pay their fair share for using national parks?
San Francisco, that's who!
San Francisco pays only $30,000 per year to the federal government for its use of Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy - roughly the cost of a one bedroom apartment in the City.
In addition to its meager "rent", San Francisco also pays for the costs of security, watershed protection, trail maintenance etc. These operational costs would generally be necessary, however, even if the City owned the Tuolumne River watershed.
Some National Park Fees May More Than Double
San Francisco's "rent" for Hetch Hetchy hasn't changed since 1913
The National Park Service has proposed to increase entrance fees at Yosemite and 16 other national parks during "peak" season. The cost to drive a car into Yosemite between May and September, for example, would more than double - rising from $30 to $75. The cost would remain at $30 for the off-peak season.
The proposal drew quick opposition from the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Los Angeles Times, and a host of others. The NPCA acknowledges that fees could play a role in addressing the National Parks' $11 billion maintenance and infrastructure backlog, but asserts that the fee increase, as proposed, "would make these places -- protected for all Americans to experience -- unaffordable for many American families to visit."
Slate.com offered a view in support of fee increases, pointing out that many parks are overcrowded, in need of improvements, and that there are other ways to ensure access for all.
While the cost of using our national parks has generally increased over time, there is one place where the cost has not increased in more than 100 years: The City of San Francisco pays only $30,000 per year for its use of Hetch Hetchy. That is roughly the cost of an average one-bedroom apartment in the City.
So if anybody is underpaying for the use of our national parks, it's San Francisco. We aren't proposing, however, that the City's rent be increased. We're suggesting the City store it's water downstream, outside of Yosemite, and return Hetch Hetchy to the American people.
The National Park Service will be accepting comments on its proposal until November 23.
Average cost of a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco by neighborhood. (Source: priceonomics.com)