People watch as waves crash against rocks at Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

Acadia National Park is among 17 parks that may charge visitors higher entrance fees aimed at reducing the National Park Service’s $11.33 billion maintenance backlog.

The National Park Service began seeking public comment Tuesday on the proposal, which would create a “peak season” fee of $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a statement. The fee would allow access to the park for a week.

Acadia currently charges $25 for a weekly pass and $50 for its annual entrance pass for those vehicles. Annual passes, which currently cost $50, would increase to $75 as part of the proposed fee structure changes.

The deferred maintenance is a political football for park service foes and fans, particularly in debates over Maine’s national monument. Opponents use it as an example of federal mismanagement.

The peak season fees could raise national park revenue by $70 million per year, Zinke said. The proposal states that the higher fee would start next year and run from June to October. Acadia defines its peak season as July to September.

“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” Zinke said Tuesday. “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting.”

The $70 fee is part of a rate structure that would also charge $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person on bike or foot.

Acadia currently charges $50 for its annual entrance pass fee. Seven-day entrance passes are $25 for a private vehicle, $20 for a motorcycle and $12 for an individual, according to its website.

Targeted national parks include Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion with peak season starting May 1, 2018. Parks with June peak-season starts include Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Shenandoah.

The public comment period will close on Nov. 23. Federal law requires that 80 percent of all entrance fees collected at a national park be spent on maintenance at that park.

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