PROMO Outdoors - String Lake at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming - public domain

National Parks Service asks for more time to respond to suit over cashless parks

String Lake at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming - USFWS - public domain
Brett Rowland

(The Center Square) – The National Park Service will get more time to respond to a federal lawsuit after three visitors sued alleging refusal to take cash for park entrance fees violated federal law.

An attorney representing the National Park Service asked Judge Timothy Kelly for more time to respond to the lawsuit, saying the case had been assigned within the past two weeks. The U.S. attorney also cited other cases and planned time off around the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The judge granted the request for more time, setting June 7 as the new deadline for the government to respond to the lawsuit.

PROMO Outdoors - Mountains Trees Rocky Mountain National Park Snow - NPS

Rocky Mountain National Park. NPS.

The complaint, filed in federal court in March, seeks to have a judge declare NPS Cashless unlawful. The suit alleges that three visitors were denied entrance to national parks in Arizona, New York and Georgia. The complaint further alleges that the "National Park Service no longer accepts American money at approximately twenty-nine national parks, national historic sites, national monuments, and national historic parks around the country."

NPS stopped accepting cash at some parks to be better stewards of that money.

"Reducing cash collections allows the National Park Service to be better stewards of the fees collected from visitors," according to its website. "Cashless options reduce transaction times at busy entrance stations and decrease the risk of theft. Moving to a cashless system improves accountability and consistency, reduces chances of errors, and maximizes the funding available for critical projects and visitor services."

The complaint argues that NPS Cashless can't stand.

"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," plaintiff's attorney Ray Flores II wrote in the complaint. "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."

In a 2023 news release, NPS explained why Death Valley National Park was going cashless. It said that Death Valley collected $22,000 in cash in 2022. Processing that cash cost the park $40,000, according to the release.

"Cash handling costs include an armored car contract to transport cash and park rangers’ time counting money and processing paperwork," according to the release. "The transition to cashless payments will allow the NPS to redirect the $40,000 previously spent processing cash to directly benefit park visitors."

According to NPS, of the more than 400 national parks in the National Park System, 108 charge an entrance fee.