National Park Service Sued Over Cashless Policies

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the National Park System locations that have moved to cashless systems for entrance fees/Kurt Repanshek file

The National Park Service’s increasing move to only accept credit cards for entrance to parks has driven three visitors to sue the agency, saying its policy is unreasonable and an abuse of discretion and that federal law states that legal tender is suitable “for all public charges.

Esther Van Der Werf of Ojai, California, Toby Stover, of High Falls, New York, and Elizabeth Dasburg, of Darien, Georgia, brought the lawsuit [attached below] earlier this month after being told their U.S. currency would not be accepted for entry into Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Tonto National Monument, Saguaro National Park, Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site, and Fort Pulaski National Monument.

“NPS’s violation of federal law cannot be overlooked in favor of any purported benefit NPS cashless could hope to achieve, such as reducing logistics of handling cash collected,” reads a section of the lawsuit. “Moreover, there is an increased cost to the NPS in going cashless, such as additional processing fees that will be borne by NPS and by visitors who ultimately fund the federal government through taxes, in addition to personal surcharges and bank fees visitors may incur under NPS cashless policy.

“However, plaintiffs do not ask the court to prohibit NPS from accepting credit cards, debit cards, or digital payment methods (such as ApplePay) should visitors to NPS sites prefer to use them. 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.”

According to the lawsuit, Stover was denied entrance to the FDR home at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site when she tried to pay the fee with a $10 bill.

van der Werf asked Saguaro National Park staff in an email if she could pay with cash and was told, “[W]e do not have the capability to accept cash. On your way to Arizona, you might be able to stop at a park that does accept cash and purchase an Interagency Annual pass.”

Organ Pipe Cactus staff sold van der Werf that, “[W]e do not accept cash for those transactions. At the visitor center we only accept card transactions. Take care. . .”

Dasburg was told by Fort Pulaski staff that she could “go to the local grocery stores or big chains like Walmart to purchase a gift card. Since those are cards, we can accept them in leu [sic] of cash.” 

Among National Park System units that don’t accept cash, or soon won’t, for entrance are 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).

In announcing the decision to go cashless, parks say, “[M]oving to a cashless system 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.
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