National Park Service Sued Over Cashless Entrance Fees

Photo: National Park Service

When the National Park Service announced cashless entrance fees at many of its parks in the United States, including Lassen Volcanic National Park, it was met with outrage. Many claimed that the new policy was illegal, especially for a federal agency, to deny cash tender.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed against the NPS, hoping to bring cash back to popular outdoor destinations.

Three national park enthusiasts have filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service (NPS), challenging its increasing shift towards cashless transactions for park entrance fees. Esther van der Werf, Toby Stover, and Elizabeth Dasburg argue that the NPS’s policy is not only unreasonable but also in violation of federal law, which mandates U.S. currency as valid for all public charges.

This legal battle emerged following incidents at several national parks, including Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Saguaro National Park, where the plaintiffs were refused entry for attempting to pay with cash.

The lawsuit highlights a broader concern among park visitors who are either unable or choose not to use non-cash payment methods. Despite the convenience of digital payments, the plaintiffs emphasize that the NPS’s cashless policy excludes a significant portion of the population, potentially infringing on their right to access public lands. They are not seeking to eliminate the use of credit cards or digital payments within the parks but are urging the court to make cash payments an available option once more.

Among the parks that have transitioned or are planning to transition to cashless systems are notable names like Mount Rainier, Death Valley, and Lassen Volcanic National Parks. These parks have cited the efficiency and reduced cost of handling electronic payments as key reasons for the shift. However, the lawsuit contends that the move towards cashlessness incurs additional processing fees and may impose unforeseen costs on visitors, including bank fees and personal surcharges.

The national parks named in the lawsuit, alongside Lassen Volcanic National Park, are at the forefront of this contentious move to cashless transactions. As this legal challenge unfolds, it underscores the tension between modernizing payment systems and ensuring equitable access to America’s cherished natural landscapes.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. I had an interesting and disappointing experience with the no-cash, no staff system.

    Last fall, I arrived at the north entrance to Lassen before 5pm. I wanted to pay for an annual pass, but couldn’t do so with the cashless system and no staff present. I paid the $30 entrance fee planning to pass back trough the park in 2 days and use the receipt to apply the entrance fee money to my annual pass.

    Internet road conditions for highway 89 said the road was open through the park and there was no indication at the entrance station that the park road was closed. I drove 10 mile into the park and found the road closed. I had to backtrack 30 miles to get to my destination and with the road closed, I would not be driving back trough the park in 2 days.

    I guess I was an early victim of the cashless – staffless system. I considered it my annual donation to the National Parks Service.

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