The National Park Service will only take plastic at its parks. Three visitors are suing to use cash

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park. The National Park Service does not accept cash for payment of entry fees. An Ojai woman is among those suing. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

The National Park Service has been sued over its policy of accepting only payment of credit cards or debit cards for entry fees and refusing to take cash, a policy the agency that manages national parks, national monuments and other sites adopted last year.

Three park visitors, Esther van der Werf of Ojai, Toby Stover of High Falls, N.Y. and Elizabeth Dasburg of Darien, Ga., filed the lawsuit March 6 in the U.S. District Court of D.C., saying that they were prevented from using cash at national parks, historic sites and monuments across the country, including in Arizona, New York and Georgia.

They said that the National Park Service's cashless policy violates federal law, citing a U.S. code that requires U.S. currency to be legal tender for all public charges. But the federal agency argues that accepting cash is costly and time-consuming.

Van der Werf said that she was denied entry at the Tonto National Monument, Saguaro National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, according to the lawsuit. Stover wasn't able to visit the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in New York after trying to pay for the $10 tour in cash. Dasburg emailed the Ft. Pulaski National Historic Site in Georgia to ask how to enter the park without a debit or credit card and was told to go to a Walmart or grocery store to buy a gift card.

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The NPS began implementing cashless policies at multiple locations in 2023, including Death Valley National Park. The park service said in a news release that $22,000 in cash collected at Death Valley the previous year took more than $40,000 to process.

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

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.