Frequent visitors to Colorado National Monument might want to treat themselves to the holiday gift of an annual pass there before the end of the year.
Wait longer and they'll pay more, thanks to further ratcheting-up of entrance fees at the monument.
Come Jan. 1, entrance fees at the monument will increase by $5, reaching $25 for private vehicles, $20 for motorcycles, $15 for seven-day passes for bicyclists and pedestrians, and $45 for the annual pass. People can buy the annual pass for $40 before Dec. 31 and it will be valid for next year, the Park Service said in a news release this week. It can be purchased at www.recreation.gov or in person at the park entrances or the visitor center (only in the winter), the Park Service said.
Fees have been hiked at the monument multiple times in recent years, starting in 2017. At that point, according to previous Daily Sentinel reporting, the fees hadn't increased since 2011. The Park Service decided, based on public feedback, to phase in hikes in fees, which are used to support park visitors, rather than immediately doubling or tripling some fees.
As recently as 2016, it cost $10 for a private vehicle to enter the park, $5 for a motorcyclist, and $5 for pedestrians and cyclists. It was $25 for an annual pass. Following the 2017 increase, the Park Service kept rates steady in 2018. Further increases occurred at the start of this year.
The Park Service says the new increase at the monument was mandated by the Interior Department in 2018 but delayed due to a previous increase in fees.
According to the Park Service, federal law requires that recreational fees charged on public lands be used for direct visitor benefits. Projects funded at the monument in recent years have included trail work on the Devils Kitchen and Liberty Cap trails, and new railings at overlooks including Artist Point.
Next year, plans include continuing work on Liberty Cap Trail and starting work on Upper Monument Canyon Trail, Otto's Trail and Coke Ovens Trail.
"Providing an outstanding visitor experience is a top priority for our team at the monument," monument Superintendent Nathan Souder said in the news release. "The increased revenue from entrance fees will provide additional funding that will help us greatly in meeting our priority by improving infrastructure and addressing maintenance needs that have a direct connection to our guests."
The Saddlehorn campground fee will hold steady at $22 next year.
The Park Service notes that entrance fees aren't charged for those under 16 or holders of access, military or fourth-grade passes. Prices for the Interagency Annual Pass ($80) and Senior Pass ($20 a year or $80 lifetime) won't change next year, and those passes are available for purchase at the monument.
For all of the options visitors have when it comes to getting into Colorado National Monument and other National Park Service sites, there's yet one more — the free one. Next year, the Park Service is offering five fee-free days. These include:
■ Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day;
■ April 18, the first day of National Park Week;
■ Aug. 25, the National Park Service birthday;
■ Sept. 26, National Public Lands Day;
■ Nov. 11, Veterans Day.