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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Visiting the Grand Canyon and other national parks could get a little pricier.
The National Park Service said 115 of its 401 units plan to seek public comment on entrance fees that could go up starting next year. It's part of a broader effort by the agency to bring in more money for visitor services and start addressing a backlog of projects ahead of its centennial.
"Obviously everyone would love to have fees not go up, but we also know the reality is budgets have been static and tight," said Patrick O'Driscoll, a spokesman in the agency's Intermountain Region based in Denver. "Fees are one of the only ways that parks can try to catch up with some important improvements, badly needed upgrades."
The Grand Canyon announced a proposal Friday to increase its single-vehicle entrance fee from $25 to $30 for a seven-day pass. Efforts to raise fees at other parks across the country will be wide-ranging but cannot top certain limits. The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and Sequoia are among 10 parks where proposed entrance fees will be capped at $30 per vehicle or $15 per person, for example, the Park Service said.
About 130 national park units charge entrance fees, and they are able to keep 80 percent of those fees for use within the individual park. The other 20 percent goes into a pool and is distributed to parks that don't charge visitors to enter.
Entrance fees pay for things like repairs and maintenance, visitor exhibits and resource protection. At the Grand Canyon, a percentage of entrance fees is set aside for eventual replacement of aging water pipelines.
Under the Grand Canyon's proposal, prices for visitors on motorcycles also would go up from $20 to $25. Bicyclists and pedestrians would be charged $15, up from $12. Annual passes would go from $50 to $60. The price of a pass to visit any of the national park units would remain the same at $80 per year.
The public has 60 days to weigh in on the proposed increases at Grand Canyon. Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis wrote in an August memo that a park could chose not to implement proposed fees if there is significant public outcry.
One national monument in southern Arizona has since decided to eliminate its $5 entrance fee per person. Chiricahua National Monument spokeswoman Julena Campbell said raising prices didn't make sense because many people who visit the monument known for its volcanic rock formations already use an interagency pass or have discounted passes.
Grand Canyon spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said the park receives about $18 million per year from entrance fees. The park last increased its per-vehicle fee in 1997 from $20 to $25.
Darren Weigl, who works at an outdoors shop in Flagstaff, said the proposed increase is reasonable. He would like to see the extra money go to educational programs.
"I imagine if they're getting less or staying stagnant, you have to create revenue in some way to keep people enjoying it," he said. "If it's for the betterment of the park, I'm for it."
Lloyd and Linda Andersen of Sun City, senior citizens who have a $10 lifetime pass to national park units, said the Grand Canyon should consider raising that fee to keep people who are unemployed or families struggling with money from having to pay more to enter.
"Let the younger families keep enjoying it without raising it," Linda Andersen said. "They won't come."
Her husband suggested people could cut down on expenses inside the park and spend the extra money to get through the gates. "Seeing it is the best part," Lloyd Andersen said.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A series of colorful, eerie faces painted on rocks in some of the West's most famously picturesque landscapes has sparked an investigation by the National Park Service and a furor online.
Agents so far have confirmed the images in Yosemite and four other national parks in California, Utah and Oregon. Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the vandalism could lead to felony charges for the person responsible.
The images appear to come from a New York state woman traveling across the West this summer and documenting her work on Instagram and Tumblr, said Casey Schreiner of modernhiker.com, whose blog post tipped off authorities.
The investigation is the subject of well-trafficked threads on the website Reddit, where people railed against the drawings as the defacing of irreplaceable natural landscapes.
"You're seeing this emotional response of people who feel like they've been kicked in the gut," Schreiner said.
It's not the first time vandalism in parks has been documented on social media. Last year in Utah, two Boy Scout leaders caused an online uproar when they recorded themselves toppling an ancient rock formation at Goblin Valley State Park and posted it on YouTube.
But in this case, the woman appears to consider the work an artistic expression, Schreiner said.
One photograph online showed a painting of a woman's face on a rock outcropping against the panoramic sweep of Oregon's Crater Lake National Park. In another, a backpack-size line drawing of a woman smoking a cigarette appears on red rock in Utah's Zion.
The images appear to have been painted with acrylic paint or drawn with marker, Schreiner said.
He took screen shots Tuesday of seven images that appeared on Instagram and Tumblr accounts under the handle "creepytings." The accounts later were made private or taken down.
The Associated Press is not naming the woman associated with the accounts because she hasn't been charged with a crime. Efforts to reach her Thursday were not successful.
Artists who work in natural environments typically consider who owns the land and get permission to work there, said Monty Paret, an associate professor of art history at the University of Utah. The earthwork "Spiral Jetty" sculpture on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, for example, is on land leased from the state.
The images that surfaced this week look more like graffiti, Paret said.
"As opposed to tagging in a back alley, it's like tagging an iconic building," he said. "It's going to get a lot more attention."
National parks agents have confirmed the vandalism in Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks in California, Canyonlands and Zion in Utah, and Crater Lake in Oregon.
Investigators also are looking for vandalism in other places the woman's social media trail indicates she visited: Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon in California; Rocky Mountain in Colorado; Bryce Canyon in Utah; and Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Crater Lake superintendent Craig Ackerman said bad weather has kept staff from going to the painting there, which is at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. Though rangers typically remove graffiti to discourage others, sometimes cleaning it causes even more damage, he said.
Vandalism is a small but persistent problem for the Park Service, which welcomes about 280 million visitors a year, Olson said.
It typically is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and a year in prison. But vandalism in national parks can be a felony if the damage is extensive or in specially protected places, he said.
Associated Press writer Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Oregon, contributed to this report.
A whole new community is springing up in the southeastern part of Mesa and drawing a lot of attention. The Eastmark development, managed by DMB Associates Inc., is increasingly active and a lot more is going on there than Valley residents may realize.
A local charter school is moving into its new location just in time for the beginning of the school year. Pathfinder Academy will open the doors of its Monticello-inspired campus on Aug. 5, and will serve kindergarten through eighth grade with a classical-focused curriculum that teaches students in a style more akin to home schooling than the classroom style of public schools.
Sequoia Charter School is hoping to enhance to health of their students and the community with four events it will host during April.
Actor and Mesa native Charlie LeSueur recently left his footprints in cement at the Superstition Mountain Museum for his work preserving a part of television history. Now, LeSueur is working to make a new footprint by developing the theatrical talents of students at Sequoia Star Academy in his role as its performing arts director.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Vice Mayor Alex Finter visited Sequoia Charter Elementary School students on March 3 to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday and the 16th annual National Education Association's "Read Across America Day."
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith reads to students at Sequoia Elementary School in Mesa as part of Read Across America day on March 3. [Courtesy City of Mesa]
Mesa Vice Mayor Alex Finter reads a snippet from Dr. Seuss to a class at Sequoia Elementary School in Mesa as part of Read Across America day on March 3. [Courtesy City of Mesa]
Gilbert Early College’s girls basketball team captured its third consecutive Canyon Athletic Association State Championship on March 1, at the US Airways Center. Gilbert Early College finished the season 20-5, after returning only one starter from last year’s CAA State Championship team. They were led by junior Hannah Carpenter who had 20 points in the 40-34 victory over Sequoia Pathway Academy. Carpenter was named the CAA Division 2 Tournament MVP.
Sequoia Star Academy teacher Charlie LeSueur had his footprints cemented at the Superstition Mountain Museum Hall of Fame for his work preserving Western film history. [Courtesy Sequoia Star Academy]
A local charter-school organization will open its next charter school emphasizing STEM topics in Mesa’s Eastmark development.
A rendering of the STEM-focused Sequoia Pathfinder Academy. [Courtesy Sequoia Charter Schools]
Division I, Section I
A 49-0 first-half outburst helped Tempe Prep (Division V) to the easy victory on Friday, the Knights' sixth consecutive blowout victory after losing their first three games of the season against elite competition.
7 p.m. kickoff || Location: Chandler Prep H.S.
Brandon Haagsma threw four touchdowns, including two to TJ Widner, as host Valley Christian broke a school record for most points in a game, easily defeating Sequoia, 69-7.
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Everybody gathers around Joe, the guy who seems to have all the answers. Only he doesn't.
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Nick Smith threw for 273 yards and seven touchdowns in the first half with three going to wide receiver Grayson Boyll, as visiting Scottsdale Prep rolled Sequoia from the get-go in a 62-0 victory.