Visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area will have a couple weeks to purchase annual passes at a discounted rate until new entrance fees take effect on Jan. 15.
The National Park Service said annual passes at the current price of $20 will be available through Jan. 14. Passes are available at the park’s entrance stations, park headquarters at 601 Nevada Way in Boulder City, or by mail at the park’s Web site, www.nps.gov/lake. Order forms sent by mail must be received by Jan. 14 to qualify for the 2010 rate.
Annual lake-use passes will increase from $20 to $30 on Jan. 15. Under the new fee schedule, vehicle passes will go from $5 for five days of access to $10 for seven days. Watercraft fees will rise from $10 for five days to $16 for seven days per vessel.
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis approved the new fee schedule after it was put out for public comment in April. Of the 98 written comments received for Lake Mead National Recreation Area, 28 favored the fee increases and 28 opposed them. The remainder were neutral on the issue or in favor of parts of proposed fee schedule, according to a news release this week from park officials.
With the increases, the park’s gross revenue is expected to increase from $3.3 million in 2010 to about $13 million by 2014. In all, 80 percent of the funds will be spent on projects and programs at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which includes lakes Mead and Mohave on the Lower Colorado River. The remaining 20 percent will be used at national parks that don’t charge a recreation fee.
By policy, funds from recreation fees can’t be used for normal operational costs including salaries for permanent employees. Instead, fee money is used to enhance the visitor experience and for protecting resources. Examples include improving ramp access and picnic areas, litter cleanup and protecting natural resources.
Since fee collections began 10 years ago, funds from the sale of public lands in Southern Nevada have been tapped to pay for moving ramps and restroom facilities and for maintaining beaches. The park has spent at least $36 million to respond to the lake’s declining level, which stems from a decade of drought on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, where snowmelt feeds the Colorado River and its system of water-supply reservoirs downstream.
But with land sales dropping off in Southern Nevada because of the ongoing economic recession, officials said the park is in need of supplemental funding.
In 2009, 7.6 million visitors came to the recreation area to boat, fish, camp and hike in the surrounding desert. The visitor count marked an increase of more than 66,800 from 2008. Park officials estimate they are understaffed by 50 percent to run a park of that size.
The recreation area’s operating budget for the 2010 fiscal year was $18.3 million.
While entrance fees will increase on Jan. 15, the park will still honor federal interagency senior passes, access passes, Golden Age and Golden Access passes that come with a 50 percent discount on lake use and camping fees.
Senior passes are available for a one-time charge of $10 for U.S. citizens 62 and older. Access passes are available at no charge for Americans with permanent disabilities.
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@review
journal.com or 702-383-0308.