Home Commentary Open forum 'NEED' FOR PARK FEES DOESN'T MAKE THEM LEGAL

'NEED' FOR PARK FEES DOESN'T MAKE THEM LEGAL

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Dear editor:
There is a raging battle on the mainland over the National Park and Forest Service's "demonstration fee program," and rightfully so. The decline in federal funding coupled with an increase in administratively imposed "fees" spells a loss of input by the people through their members of Congress. It also leads to a loss of use in parks by the not-so-wealthy. Locally, there is now talk of moorings and no anchor zones, and fees for moorings. All spell a loss of access to the many for the sake of not crowding the rich.
The recent article on the Friends of the V.I. National Park meeting on St. John was filled with optimism but left out one little-known fact. The $1 million collected in entrance fees at Trunk Bay is totally unlawful! It violates the very federal law that created our park.
Few would say we don't want the park to be funded. I don't argue with that. It is of utmost importance, however, that parks remain accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy. It is equally important that park management be scrupulous and lawful. Mr. [Park Supt. Russell] Berry's administration has proven less than diligent in both cases.
I have visited Trunk Bay on several recent occasions and have been ticketed four times. The U.S. Attorney's office has refused to prosecute me — knowing, I contend, that the fee is indefensible. There is no legal basis for an entry or use fee in the VINP and there should never be one. The fees collected, however "needed" or desirable they might seem, have in effect been unlawfully extorted by rangers with guns. Such unlawful action has no place in our society.
Terry Conklin
Coral Bay

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