Friday night, the National Park Service closed off an 8-mile stretch of the Colonial Parkway in celebration of Pedal the Parkway, a three-day annual event that allows participants to bike, walk, stroll or roll through an extended area of the road without encountering cars.
But for the first time in the event’s 26-year history, attendees will be expected to pay an entrance fee, a National Park Service spokesperson confirmed.
In an email to The Triangle, Phil Akers, acting deputy superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park, said that anyone who participates in recreational activities on the parkway must now pay “recreation fees” or purchase a park pass – and the Pedal the Parkway event will not be an exception this year.
“Similar to other days, with the exception of designated Fee Free Days, recreation fees are required from participants of [Pedal the Parkway] and visitors to Colonial National Historical Park,” Akers said. “The NPS encourages participants to support the park and their public lands and waters through the recreation fee program.”
A brochure dated April 18, 2023, states that the entrance fees “help the park fund important work and projects at Colonial National Historical Park.” The funds are also said to be used for “visitor safety including providing additional traffic safety patrol and signage where needed.”
In a previous interview, Akers said the entrance fee requirement was recently put into place in response to a fee audit, which found that Colonial National Historical Park was not generating as much revenue as expected.
Locals expressed anger and confusion on social media after NPS fee signs began popping up throughout Colonial National Historical Park and along Colonial Parkway in January. The Triangle has also been flooded with emails from readers who say they are concerned about the new charges.
The signs state that “All visitors must have a valid entrance pass.” Beneath those words is a large QR code that, when scanned, directs visitors to a page where they are prompted to pay for admission or buy a park pass.
Several pass options are available for people visiting Colonial National Historical Park and the Colonial Parkway. Standard adult admission costs $15 and provides 7 days of consecutive access for individuals who are 16 and older. Those under the age of 15 are not charged a fee.
A separate $15 fee is required for entry into the portion of Jamestown that is jointly managed by Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service. Those areas include New Towne, the James Fort Site, and the Archaearium.
Park-goers can also choose to purchase an annual pass for $45, which includes access for three guests.
Akers said visitors may be able to select from other available options, depending on specific eligibility. Examples include annual or lifetime passes for seniors or military members, which are available through NPS for special rates.
Local resident RM Stevenson believes the new NPS fees are creating unnecessary barriers, especially for people who live in the area but don’t earn high wages.
“The new NPS administration at Yorktown is hurting the residents that live in the Williamsburg area that don’t want to pay admissions for the Jamestown and Yorktown parks that they have been to many times,” Stevenson said. “They just want to enjoy a sunset, early morning coffee or sit and read a book on a pull-off by the river.”
According to Akers, those who drive through the parkway strictly for commuting purposes do not need to pay a fee. However, if a person stops at a pull-off area to take pictures, that would be considered a “recreational use” of the park, and a fee or pass would be required, he said.
Akers still encourages local residents to turn up for Pedal the Parkway this weekend, calling it a “tremendous, limited-time opportunity for visitors and residents alike to experience the Parkway car-free.”
NPS confirmed that staff will be on-site throughout the weekend to collect admission fees and help people purchase passes.
Pedal the Parkway is carried out in collaboration with BikeWalk Williamsburg, a local organization on a mission to “encourage everyone to bike or walk everywhere.” The event will continue through Sunday, May 7 at noon.
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