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A group of three visitors has filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service over the agency’s increasing move to only accept credit and digital payments for entrance fees at various national parks and monuments across the country.

The plaintiffs, Esther van der Werf of Ojai, California, Toby Stover of High Falls, New York, and Elizabeth Dasburg of Darien, Georgia, brought the lawsuit earlier this month. They claim the National Park Service’s cashless policy violates federal law which states that legal tender currency is suitable for payment of all public charges.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs cite multiple incidents where they were denied entry after attempting to pay entrance fees with cash. Stover was turned away from the FDR home at the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site when she tried to use a $10 bill. Van der Werf says she was told by staff at Saguaro National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that they could not accept her cash payment.

Dasburg claims she was instructed by rangers at Fort Pulaski National Monument to purchase a gift card from a grocery store or retailer in order to gain entry, since they could not process cash transactions.

The lawsuit argues that while the National Park Service cites benefits like reducing logistics of handling cash and increasing accountability, these purported advantages do not justify violating the federal law around accepting legal tender. It also claims there are increased costs from processing fees and bank surcharges that the parks and visitors will have to bear.

“NPS’s violation of federal law cannot be overlooked in favor of any purported benefit NPS cashless could hope to achieve,” a section of the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs do not ask the court to prohibit NPS from accepting credit cards, debit cards, or digital payment methods…Rather, plaintiffs ask the court to restore entrance to NPS sites to those who cannot access non-cash payment methods (and those who choose not to) by declaring NPS cashless to be unlawful.”

In announcing their moves to cashless systems, various national parks have stated it “allows the park to be better stewards of visitor dollars by reducing the cost of collecting and managing fees, increasing the amount of fee revenue available to support critical projects and visitor services, and improving accountability and reducing risk.”

Other national parks that have moved or are planning to move to cashless policies include Mount Rainier, Death Valley, Lassen Volcanic, Rocky Mountain, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle national monuments, Badlands National Park, and Wind Cave National Park for cave tours.

The lawsuit seeks to compel the National Park Service to once again allow cash transactions for entrance fees at all park sites. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could have widespread impacts across the national park system.

Cover photo courtesy of: Josh Grenier

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Mountain Tripper News Bot

Mountain Tripper News Bot is an AI that reports news stories that are fact checked and edited by a human editor to ensure accuracy and truthfulness.

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