Hatcher Pass visitors now have to shell out more money to visit the Independence Mine State Historical Park.

Beginning this year, Alaska State Parks implemented a $3 fee to see the site.

Mat-Su Parks Superintendent Wayne Biessel said preserving the past comes at a price. It takes thousands of dollars to keep up with the aging infrastructure.

“A lot of folks don’t know we don’t have grid power to Independence Mine, so, we rely on diesel generators to keep that park open and viable,” he explained. “We’re dealing with eight- to 10-feet of snow every year so there’s a lot of snow damage.”

A state park pass or the traditional $5 parking fee will cover the admission for the driver. It’s an additional $3 for each person over the age of ten.

Regular visitors were surprised at the fee.

“What I thought was going to be $5 was $14,” said Suzanne Hueners from Anchorage.

Independence Mine provides a trip back in time to Alaska’s golden glory days. It’s a piece of history Hueners wanted to show her family from Minnesota.

“Every time you come up it’s more beautiful than you remember,” she said.

Not only did they have to scramble to come up with enough cash– credit cards are not currently accepted– but they had to wait in line to get there.

“It takes too much time because there were several cars in front of us. I thought, ‘What is going on,’ then he said they have to charge for every person in the car and that’s a little silly,” Hueners said.

With state budget cuts, Biessel said it’s important the park be more self-sustaining. He understands people don’t want to pay more but said it’s a small price to keep the mine open.

“That’s a serious thing right now. We actually closed, are in the process of closing several parks in the Delta Junction area just because of the funding issues. So, if we don’t charge more, we’re going to have to close more parks. That’s the cold, hard reality,” he said.

The gate is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Parking at the lower lot before the fee station is still $5 or free with a state park pass and walkers are welcome anytime.

Hueners said she thinks the park system needs to get the word out so more people are prepared to spend extra cash.

“I don’t mind sustaining this area, it’s beautiful. I don’t mind paying the fee. It’s just getting up here and being surprised by it,” she said.

Biessel said he hopes the cost of conservation won’t deter people from continuing to hike in the heart of Hatcher Pass.

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