SANDY HOOK — Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to National Park Service (NPS) Director Jon Jarvis on November 7 expressing his opposition to a proposed fee hike at Sandy Hook.
The NPS has proposed increasing entrance fees at the park from $10 per car for most vehicles to $20 for a two-day pass and increasing the cost of a season pass from $50 to $100.
“It’s difficult economic times. People can’t afford that,” Pallone told The Two River Times this week.
Pallone also questioned why fees at Sandy Hook would be increased $20 while other Gateway National Recreation locations would be less expensive or even free. According to Pallone, the Gateway unit at Jacob Riis beach area in Jamaica Bay, Queens has been charging $5 and is in line for an increase to $10 per day while the beach and park facility on Staten Island, NY, has been free.
“The letter is pointing out the disparity, which makes [the increases] even more unfair,” Pallone said on Wednesday.
Pallone also noted in his letter he would like an accounting of how the funds raised via the increase would be allocated and asked for a timeline as to when the park service plans to announce its final decision.
Repeating objections he has voiced in the past, Pallone said this week that in these economically lean times, the fee increase at Sandy Hook would adversely impact park visitors who have few other affordable recreation options.
Raina Williams, a spokeswoman for the NPS, confirmed Pallone’s statements concerning the cost of visiting other Gateway parks.
But, Williams said, the NPS conducted market analysis for the various locations before establishing entrance fees in order to keep prices competitive. “It wasn’t something that was arbitrary.”
When asked about a formal response to Pallone’s letter, Williams replied, “We certainly value the feedback and position of Congressman Pallone, and his expressing the views and concerns of constituents.”
At Pallone’s request, the NPS held an open house at Sandy Hook in late September to hear additional input from the public on the fee hike proposal.
Those in attendance at the Open House were universal in their opposition to the plan. Linda Canzanelli, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area, acknowledged that 95 percent of those who have responded to the NPS call for comment have been opposed to the fee hike.
The park revenue would be used to subsidize park operations and for a variety of renovation projects at the location.
Pallone said his information shows that about 98 percent of fees collected at Sandy Hook stay at Sandy Hook.
Last September, Canzanelli said she didn’t know when the park service would make a final determination on the proposal, but that it would certainly be before next summer.
Pallone has not received any response to his letter as of this week,” he said.