Fees to increase $5, daily pass to return under Chincoteague wildlife refuge proposal

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CHINCOTEAGUE, VA – JULY 25: A wild pony eats grass after swimming across the Assateague Channel during the 93rd annual pony swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 25, 2018 in Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Every year the wild ponies are rounded up on the Assateague national wildlife refuge to be auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (WAVY) — Fees are set to increase $5 across the board at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in 2020 under a new proposal.

The plans also bring back the refuge’s daily pass, which was discontinued in 2017 in the last round of fee increases.

In 2017, weekly passes increased from $15 to $20 and annual passes went up $30 to $40. Before that increase in 2017, fees hadn’t been raised since 2008.

Here’s a breakdown of the proposed increases to take effect Jan. 1, 2020:

Vehicle daily pass — $10

Vehicle 7-day pass — Increase from $20 to $25

Vehicle annual pass — Increase from $40 to $45

Beach parking (required for Duck Stamp holders to enter recreational beach areas of either Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge or Assateague Island National Seashore ) — Increase from $15 to $20

Pedestrians (by foot, bike, etc.) — Free

The announcement comes just days after the refuge’s partner, Assateague Island National Seashore, announced similar price increases through standardized requirements from the National Park Service. The Department of Interior is looking to fund about $12 billion in backlogged maintenance at America’s national parks.

Though Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge falls underneath the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and not the National Park Service, the refuge on the Virginia side of Assateague Island shares management with its National Park Service neighbors on the Maryland end. Passes at one site are valid at the other.

Chincoteague Refuge Manager Nancy Finley emphasized that 80 percent of the funds collected from the passes goes directly to maintenance and improvements at the refuge itself, including road, trails and parking lot upkeep, repairs to Assateague’s historic lighthouse ranger programs and more. The other 20 percent is shared with refuges across the U.S.

Finley says the refuge has about 1.3 million visitors annually, and generates $155 in local economic activity for each dollar appropriated by Congress, according to a 2010 Banking on Nature report.

Public feedback on the proposal is open until December 27 and encouraged to “help the refuge gain a better prospective to make decisions on how to fine tune the proposed changes,” Finley says. Comments can be sent by email to FW5RW_CNWR@fws.gov or by mail to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, 8231 Beach Road, Chincoteague, VA 23336.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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