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Glacier projects 40% increase in revenue from campground fees

by TAYLOR INMAN
| February 28, 2024 2:00 AM

With busier campgrounds and a recently implemented fee increase, front country camping is projected to bring approximately $2.4 million into Glacier National Park coffers in 2024 — a 40% increase over last year.

Glacier Park’s Public Affairs Officer Gina Icenoggle said fees collected from front country campgrounds in 2023 totaled $1.7 million, and brought $1.4 million in 2022. This year, some campgrounds will see a price increase of as much as $10, like recently reopened Avalanche Campground. This is among other general changes to front country campground fees, like a decrease in the cost of some group sites.

The park has not raised front country campground fees since 2007. Icenoggle said the decision was made after a civic engagement period last year.

“Just like anything else, the cost of being able to maintain campgrounds, and increasing accessibility, making any improvements or facility restoration — all those things are going up in cost,” Icenoggle said.

“In order to be able to continue to take care of the resources here in the park, we had to increase the fees.”

According to visitor use statistics from the National Park Service, overnight RV and campground stays in Glacier National Park throughout 2023 totaled 132,336 and 132,219, respectively.

That’s a sizable jump from 2022, where there were 112,485 RVs and 90,424 overnight tent campers. Icenoggle said the increase could be attributed to the reopening of Avalanche Campground, which had been closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Icenoggle said how the park uses revenue from campground fees is outlined by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, or FLREA. In the act, Congress authorized the collection of fees for recreational use of public lands managed by the National Park Service, among other federal agencies. Icenoggle said most park revenue is subject to the 80/20 rule, meaning 80% of the funds stay in the park and 20% goes back to the National Park Service

“Of the 80% retained, we are required to use 55% of that money on deferred maintenance projects. And deferred maintenance is anything that we have to take care of inside the park, like trail projects, comfort stations, remodeling and rehabilitation projects,” Icenoggle explained.

She said some examples of deferred maintenance projects include restriping roads, correcting trail deficiencies and repairing historic masonry. After that amount goes to deferred maintenance, the cost of collection is funded. Icenoggle said this covers all fee and campground staff. Once these two areas are funded, she said the park has a small amount remaining that must be used for visitor facing projects, which can include increasing custodial needs during peak season, providing Native American cultural history interpretation and funding some seasonal interpreter ranger positions.

The funds are collected and used the same year.

There is one exception in Glacier to the 80/20 rule — revenue made from seven-day park passes and Glacier annual passes fund the park’s free shuttles, in which $10 of every pass sold goes to fund the transportation program.

Front country campsites in Glacier National Park are able to be reserved through advance reservations and first-comefirst- serve sites. Some campgrounds are one or the other, or have a combination of both.

For example, in the North Fork area of the park, both Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake campgrounds are firstcome- first-serve. Even though the area requires a vehicle reservation ticket during a portion of the summer, she said people can potentially book a site by asking the ranger at the North Fork entrance station. Advance reservations are already open for front country campgrounds in the park, but Icenoggle said a portion of reservations are held to be reserved four days or one day in advance of the required date for more spontaneous campers.

More information about Glacier’s front country campgrounds can be found at nps.gov/glac/ planyourvisit/camping. htm. Advance reservations are booked through recreation.gov.