Public invited to comment on park service plan at Oct. 24 Bushkill meeting

Bushkill. The public will have a chance to comment at a meeting in Bushkill on Oct. 24 and in writing through Dec. 6. The National Park Service proposes a $25-per-week fee, with no daily fee available, throughout the national recreation area, from Milford to the Delaware Water Gap.

18 Oct 2019 | 01:26

The National Park Service has announced that its draft Visitor Use Management Plan for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River is available for public review and comment until Dec. 6.

The plan would expand and improve recreational facilities, like trails and campgrounds, while also collecting a fee from visitors who use any part of the park. The proposed fee is $25 per car, per week, with no daily passes available. Annual passes would be available for $45.

Kathleen Sandt, public affairs specialist for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, said passes are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, active duty military, and fourth-grade students, as well as for volunteers who have contributed a certain number of service hours. Some are free and some have to be purchased, she said.

"All of these passes are available at DWGNRA even though we don't have entrance fees," she said.

Learn more about each one, including how to qualify, the cost, and the benefits a nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm.

A number of passes are available under the America the Beautiful Pass program that provide free entry into national parks and other federal areas that charge fees, said Sandt. Passholders also receive other discounts.

"The recreation area currently does not charge 'entrance fees,'" she wrote in an email. "We charge what is called an Amenity Fee at six discreet locations within the park. If we transition to an entrance fee, as proposed in the draft VUM Plan, America the Beautiful pass holders would get free admission."

Open forum

The park service will host public meetings to share information about the plan and receive public input. Comments may be submitted orally or in writing. The next meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Bushkill Volunteer Fire Company Hall, 124 Evergreen Drive, Bushkill, PA 18324.

The park service says the plan was developed with ideas from the public and park stakeholders. During its development, the park service sought the public’s response during two rounds of public meetings and public comment periods.

“We are now asking our visitors, local residents, stakeholders, elected officials, and other interested parties to take one more look at the draft VUM Plan and the informational materials that we have provided and tell us what you think,” Superintendent Sula Jacobs said. “Public involvement is essential to a successful planning effort. Our team really wants and needs to hear your thoughts and ideas in order to make this a useful plan. Your input helps ensure the park provides enhanced recreational access and improved experiences for our visitors, while also protecting the special places our visitors enjoy.”

Comments may be submitted to Superintendent Sula Jacobs, attention: VUM Planning Team, 1978 River Road, Bushkill, Pa. 18324.

A series of pop-up meetings will be held at various sites around the park and in local communities. Staff will be stationed at special events and at busy areas in the park to share information and answer questions. Meetings will be announced on the park’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/DelWaterGapNPS.

Hard copies of the draft VUM Plan may be obtained by calling 570-426-2418. Emailed comments or comments made on social media will not be accepted.

The draft plan is available for a 60-day public review and comment period that closes on Dec. 6. All comments must be received by this date.

The draft plan, a project newsletter, and all materials from the open house meetings will be available for review, and written comments may be submitted at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=220&projectID=55912&documentID=99017.

The draft plan's proposals:
Change the current practice of charging an amenity fee at six separate areas to charging an entrance fee for all park users. Most of the funds collected would remain in the park for use on deferred maintenance projects and to pay for implementation of the plan. Entrance passes would cost $25 per car, $20 per motorcycle, and $15 per person for a seven-day pass; annual passes would be available for $45.
Add up to 20 new river campsites, improve facilities at campsites, and implement a reservation and fee system for river campsite use. Campsites would cost $16 per night.
Explore developing a new river access on the New Jersey side of the park.
Develop picnic sites that can accommodate large groups.
Implement a permit-reservation system to regulate use levels.
Improve picnic facilities.
Improve the trail system by linking trail networks, enhancing accessibility, and diversifying experiences.
Provide or improve access at key locations throughout the parks.
Strategically locate education and interpretation services, including a mobile visitor center and increased partnerships.