The cost of entry to Australia’s national parks is one that many grey nomads consider to be unreasonably high and some claim it stops some from enjoying the wilderness locations as much as they would like.
Complaints about these fees are typically batted away by the various authorities which cite the cost of maintenance, management and infrastructure improvements. It seems unlikely then that the bodies responsible for Australia’s national parks will take a leaf out of Canada’s book … and make national park camping completely free.
To celebrate, its 150th anniversary since Confederation, Canada is to offer free entry to its national parks for all visitors in 2017.
Parks Canada says it is increasing its inventory of campsites and promoting ‘lesser-known and less-visited’ parks.
However, not everyone is happy about the generous offer. In the same way as many of Australia’s most iconic national parks are already incredibly popular in peak periods, so too are those such as Banff in Canada.
The fear is that the free entry offer may be ‘too successful’ in some areas and put strain on facilities, such as parking and roads.
While acknowledging the budgeted $83.3-million over five years to help Parks Canada accommodate the free admissions, one Liberal MP – John Aldag – says trouble is brewing.
“I know on a summer’s day in Lake Louise there’s no parking already and I’m just wondering, with the money that’s coming, if there will be any opportunities to mitigate, perhaps, increased visitation?” he asked.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the challenge was to maintain the ecological integrity of the parks at the same time as getting more people out to enjoy them.
However, she downplayed the problems.
“I could not think of a better way to celebrate the beauty of Canada than through free access,” she said.
Parks Canada opened reservations as of January this year, rather than April, and bookings are up 20% so far over the same date in 2015.
Experts say the free access next year should give a huge boost to the profile of the national parks, which is good, as long as Parks Canada is prepared for the influx.
· Do you think national park entry fees in Australia should be reduced? Are our parks already busier than you would like them to be? Comment below.