Three sue National Park Service for refusing to accept cash for park entrance fees

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By BRETT ROWLAND | THE CENTER SQUARE

Three people have filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service for refusing to take cash for park entrance fees alleging its NPS Cashless program violates federal law. 

The complaint, filed in federal court earlier this month, seeks to have a judge declare NPS Cashless unlawful. The suit alleges that three visitors were denied entrance to national parks in Arizona, New York and Georgia. The complaint further alleges that the “National Park Service no longer accepts American money at approximately twenty-nine national parks, national historic sites, national monuments, and national historic parks around the country.”

An NPS spokesperson said the service doesn’t comment on litigation. NPS has yet to formally respond to the complaint. A response is required by May 16, according to court records. NPS has stopped accepting cash at some parks to be better stewards of that money. 

“Reducing cash collections allows the National Park Service to be better stewards of the fees collected from visitors,” according to its website. “Cashless options reduce transaction times at busy entrance stations and decrease the risk of theft. Moving to a cashless system improves accountability and consistency, reduces chances of errors, and maximizes the funding available for critical projects and visitor services.”

The website further notes that there are alternatives. 

“Each park that has completed the transition to cashless fee collection has an alternative option for visitors who are not able to pay with a credit or debit card. The specific arrangements vary by park, and park staff onsite will be able to assist,” according to NPS. “Most parks that have converted to cashless fee collection have had an overwhelmingly positive experience.”

The complaint argues that NPS Cashless can’t stand. 

“NPS’s violation of federal law cannot be overlooked in favor of any purported benefit NPS Cashless could hope to achieve such as reducing logistics of handling cash collected,” plaintiff’s attorney Ray Flores II wrote in the complaint. “Moreover, there is an increased cost to the NPS in going cashless, such as additional processing fees that will be borne by NPS and by visitors who ultimately fund the Federal Government through taxes, in addition to personal surcharges and bank fees visitors may incur under NPS Cashless policy.”

The suit asks a judge “to restore entrance to NPS sites to those who cannot access non-cash payment methods (and those who choose not to) by declaring NPS Cashless to be unlawful.”

It alleges NPS Cashless “violates NPS’ mission to provide the public access to and enjoyment of the NPS parks, sites, and resources.”

“Even though United States law obligates NPS to accept cash for public charges such as entrance fees, Plaintiffs are unable to visit the Subject Locations due to the NPS Cashless policy if they exercise their right to pay in U.S. Currency,” according to the complaint. “NPS cashless is contrary to law since American money is not accepted as legal tender to visit the nation’s treasures and must be set aside.”

In a 2023 news release, NPS explained why Death Valley National Park was going cashless. It said that Death Valley collected $22,000 in cash in 2022. Processing that cash cost the park $40,000, according to the release.

“Cash handling costs include an armored car contract to transport cash and park rangers’ time counting money and processing paperwork,” according to the release. “The transition to cashless payments will allow the NPS to redirect the $40,000 previously spent processing cash to directly benefit park visitors.”

According to NPS, of the more than 400 national parks in the National Park System, 108 charge an entrance fee.

“The current Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) allows the National Park Service to collect and retain revenue and requires that fee revenue is used to enhance visitor experience,” according to the fee website. “At least 80% of funding from recreation fees stays in the park where it is collected, and the other 20% is used to benefit parks that do not collect fees or parks which generate only a small amount of revenue.”

NPS’ 2025 budget justification notes that it is responsible for 429 park units, 25 national scenic and national historic trails, and 66 wild and scenic rivers. The request for $3.58 billion is an increase of $101.1 million compared to the prior fiscal year, not including supplemental funding.

Flores, the attorney for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The complaint also names the U.S. Department of the Interior. That agency also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

28 COMMENTS

  1. Here’s a thought. Un-nationalize some parks so your”resources“ aren’t spread so thin. The government doesn’t need to own everything.

  2. While I agree with the “principles” involved here and worry about removing cash from use, the truth is that we have a terrible problem with theft from places where cash is left in park boxes. I’m not sure how you would reconcile the legal issue of cash versus the reality of thieves.

    • If you any given number of criminals/ thieves in a square mile and you release said thief’s each arrest. The number per square mile stays the same for all you genius’s out there.
      Trap a mouse in your pantry and release it in the pantry and then scratch your head trying to figure out why they’re still there is common core math at work for ya.

    • Maybe enforce the laws?

      And punish those found guilty.

      So many excuses for thieves. And it is Federal. These kooks will go after $15 like it is a capital crime.

      Enforce laws.

    • Maybe empty the collection boxes on a regular basis. Or monitor them with cameras. Or, God forbid, arrest and prosecute people who do steal from them.

      Never punish the whole for the actions of the few.

  3. There are so many ways these days cash is discouraged. On board Alaska Airlines flights, political contributions (APOC rules) and now this. And the truth is many of us use a debt or credit card for just about everything. It’s easier & more convenient. I’m guilty! And most people will keep using their cards because of this.

    But it’s not free. There is the debt/credit card fee every time you use a card for payment, on top of the purchase price.

    But most importantly, and concerning, we are creating a digital trail of how we spend our money on everything for the sake of convenience. This creates the ability for the government to stop us from spending our money. To sanction people for spending it on things that are not approved by the government. Or shutting off our access to money period, until you have to cry uncle and give up whatever it was that is the issue. It might be past due child support seized from your accounts or maybe you are using too much carbon on that trip to Hawaii as you have surpassed your government mandated limit allocated to each person. Or maybe you have purchased too many firearms lately according to digital records. Or you’ve been filling up your gas tank too often. So you will be assessed penalties.

    This is how the US deals with foreign enemies. Sanctions on Russia. Sanctions on Israeli settlers. A cashless world will enable those things to happen to us as individuals

    That’s what this is really about.

  4. Another step along the planned path to a cashless society where every financial transaction, no matter how small, will be tracked and recorded in a government database and where, with the stroke of a key or the click of a mouse, your financial assets can be frozen, seized or simply deleted. There are actually some efficiencies and good ideas with moving to a cashless society but maintaining our freedom isn’t one of them.

  5. Glad to see this! Credit cards are only good until there’s no power or no communication, then they don’t work. I was in a Chevron one time. Long line of people, all getting pissed. Cashier announces the satlink connection is down and they cannot accept credit cards. The cashier also stated that if you have cash, please come to the front of the line. the cash register was not broken and worked fine, just not the credit card machine. You’d be surprised how many dummys didn’t have cash on them.

    The problem with a “cashless society” is you’re paying the 2% process fee the storefront gets hit with and passes it down to you. Banks would love to go cashless because they make money whether you keep it in your account or you spend it. That “2%” starts adding up with those millions transactions happening 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    • Good points, Herman!

      But that 2% fee that you mention for the use of credit cards — ALL of which goes to the corrupt, too-big-to-fail Wall Street behemoth banks — is more often 3 or even 4%. That is like a tax on EVERY purchase to that percentage on every transaction. And that is quite aside from the inherent and insidious tracking, and loss of privacy, inherent in credit card use.

      For anyone concerned in the slightest about the corrupt financial power of the giant corporate banks, you are feeding them with EVERY use of a credit card. I say “starve the beast!”

      • Brick and mortor stores get hit with process fees from the bank for every credit card transaction that they process. Those stores in turn, pass the cost onto the customer.

        A side note- back in the days out in the bush before credit card machines were all over, there were times a check would be counter-signed several times before it ever hit the bank. So I’ve been told.. Native corps would send teams out to disperse the corps share holder checks. The team would entail a accountant with a big stack of share holder checks for that village, a lock box stuffed with cash and two security guards. The accountant would verify the shareholder, have them sign for their check, take the check back and cash it on the spot and then cancel the check.

  6. You know I don’t mind direct billing, direct deposit, card transactions, things like that nature. But! I draw the line when the government wants me to insert a device into my hand or forehead so it can scan it instead. It’s unnecessary surgical procedural. Besides what happens when the thing stops working!!? And your surgeon has to remove it and replace it with a new chip.

  7. Just like my dumb seat indicator light is malfunctioning. It thinks “someone” is unbuckled and it still goes off. The dumb thing! Same thing will happen with a chop inserted into the flesh. The dumb thing will malfunction or have a manufacturing defect, then the person needs two surgical procedural

  8. Tracking is a two edged sword, politicians and judges and other nefarious public servants can’t hide their graft and corruption either.

  9. Just don’t pay. Screw em.
    What are they gonna do arrest you?
    Start impounding cars in the middle of nowhere?
    We didn’t pay at Denali last spring, we tried to, but couldn’t find the camp host, so we stayed the night for free & left the next day.
    I asked people if they payed for their spot & they all told me they paid w/ an App (whatever that is)

    • That’s because they know just how worthless (debased) they’ve made it and continue to.
      History has important lessons:
      Historians have debated the causes of Rome’s collapse for centuries, pointing to religious turmoil, erosion of traditional Roman values, incursions by Germanic tribes, and political corruption. However, at the heart of Rome’s decline lies a singular, pervasive factor: THE COLLAPSE OF ITS MONETARY SYSTEM.
      Like many powerful civilizations before and since, Rome’s destruction came when its leaders resorted to currency debasement.
      The Romans built their monetary system on precious metals. The government minted and circulated the gold Aureus and silver Denarius to provide citizens with a reliable medium of exchange. A CENTRALIZED CURENCY ALSO SIMPLIFIED TAX COLLECTION (nudge nudge wink wink).
      The silver Denarius, first minted during the 2nd Punic War (218 – 201 BC), soon became Rome’s primary currency unit. The gold Aureus began circulating in the 1st century BC and gained popularity during the reign of Julius Caesar (46 – 44 BC). Basically, a de facto dual-currency system.
      Guess who held the gold currency?
      After its inception during the 2nd Punic War, the silver Denarius maintained a consistent weight and purity for nearly 300 years. In 54 AD, Emperor Nero took power. To cover his extravagant spending, Emperor Nero instituted the first round of Denarius debasement estimated at a 20% reduction of the coin’s silver content. Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, Commodus, and Septimius Severus all successively devalued the Denarius, gradually extracting wealth from the public to cover expenses. By the mid third century, the Denarius had lost nearly all its intrinsic value. Inflation had sucked the wealth out of 99% of society and concentrated it in the hands of a few elites.
      To make a long story (sorry) short and to illustrate the Denarius’ debasement against a gold standard: during Julius Caesar’s time, the gold Aureus was worth 25 Denarii. Three hundred years later, one Aureus was worth thousands of Denarii. By 330, one gold coin (now the Solidus introduced by Constantine which helped lay the foundation for the Byzantine Empire) was worth hundreds of thousands of Denarii. By the end of the Roman Empire, one gold Solidus could purchase millions of Denarii.

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