Congaree National Park is seeking public comment on proposed changes to the park’s Recreation Fee Program. The following expanded amenity fees are being proposed:
• Picnic shelter reservations ($25 for up to 4 hours, or $50 per day). This expanded amenity fee will allow visitors to reserve the picnic shelter, which is located outside the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and contains grills and picnic tables. The picnic shelter will remain available for free on a first-come-first-served basis when the shelter is not reserved.
• Wilderness Canoe Tours ($70 per person; $35 for Access Pass and Senior Pass holders). This expanded amenity fee will allow the park to fund critical projects and programs that will improve the visitor experience at Congaree National Park. A limited number of free canoe experiences will continue to be offered throughout the year and visitors are always welcome to enjoy the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail and other waterways in the park for free when they bring their own equipment.
Congaree National Park, which is open 24-hours a day year-round, does not charge an entrance or parking fee. Ranger guided hikes, Owl Prowls, Nature Discovery Walks, Forest Wellness Programs, backcountry camping and other interpretive and educational programs are provided throughout the year free of charge. Currently, the only expanded amenity fees charged are for the park’s two campgrounds: $5 per night at Bluff Campground and $10 per night at Longleaf Campground for up to eight (8) people per site and $20 per night for group sites for up to 20 people per site at Longleaf Campground.
Park Superintendent K. Lynn Berry shared that “One-hundred percent of the fees collected from the Wilderness Canoe Tours and picnic shelter reservations will remain at Congaree National Park and will be used to improve conditions at the park’s campgrounds, picnic areas, canoe landings, trails and Visitor Center. Congaree offers a truly unique wilderness experience and these fees will help us improve the experience for all visitors to the park.”
In addition to being able to offer ranger-led programs, here are some of the upcoming projects that the proposed fees would help fund:
• Provide for additional navigation signage on the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail
• Decrease ponding and trip hazards at campsites in Longleaf Campground
• Replace weathered and damaged picnic tables at the picnic shelter
• Acquire all-terrain wheelchairs for visitors with disabilities to use on the park’s trails
• Improve interpretive exhibit signage at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center
• Provide for the design and installation of wayside exhibits on park trails
The fee rates being proposed for the Wilderness Canoe Tours are based on the current market rates being charged by outfitters in the Columbia area for similar services. The proposed fee for the picnic shelter is comparable to similar rental spaces available in other parks in the region.
Those wishing to comment on this proposal may submit their comments electronically through the following site: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/Congaree-Expanded-Amenities or comments can be mailed to:
ATTN: Greg Cunningham, Supervisory Park Ranger
Congaree National Park
100 National Park Road
Hopkins, SC 29061
Comments will not be accepted verbally, via fax, email or any format other than those specified above. Bulk comments in any format (hard copy or electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted. Public comments will be accepted between August 27 and September 25, 2020.