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Iceland Mag

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Police has stopped the collection of illegal parking fees at Hraunfossar waterfalls

By Staff

  • Hraunfossar waterfalls One of the most picturesque spots in Iceland. Photo/Into the Glacier

Police in West Iceland has stopped the collection of parking fees at Hraunfossar waterfalls. The fees, which were introduced on Friday by a group of landowners who own part of the land adjacent to the waterfalls, have been deemed in violation of the law by both the Icelandic Environment Agency and the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority.

Second time collection of parking fees is stopped

Hraunfossar parking fees

One of the parking guards Police stopped the illegal activity on Monday. Photo/Stöð 2

A group of investors who own the farm Hraunsás II, which contains 90% of the parking lot used by visitors to the site, had first imposed parking fees last spring. The fees, they said, were necessary to pay for the maintenance of the parking lot. At the time the Environment Agency ruled that the fees were illegal, since the agency must approve any fees levied at protected natural monuments. The agency refused to approve any fees at Hraunfossar. Other landowners at the site also came out in opposition to the fees, as did a restaurant operator at the site. 

Read more: Police assistance requested to stop collection of illegal parking fees at Hraunfossar waterfalls

Last Friday the group of landowners then re-imposed the fees, prompting protests from tour operators who visit the site as well as the Environment Agency and the restaurant operator, who argued the parking fees were barring customers from accessing his establishment.

Blocking a public road is illegal

Hraunfossar parking fees
Confusion Tour buses have been stopping on the road outside the parking lot to let passengers out. Photo/Stöð 2

Yesterday the Police in West Iceland moved to block the collection of the fees. The fees had caused a traffic jam at the site, as tour operators simply stopped buses outside the parking lot, letting visitors out on the road, rather than pay the 6,000 ISK (57 USD/49 EUR) fee for entering the parking lot. Other visitors were left confused by the contradictory messages they were receiving about the legality of the fees.

According to a statement from the Police in West Iceland the decision to stop the collection of the fees was based on a request from the IRCA which pointed out that the fees were being collected on a public roadway, and that since the IRCA, which is responsible for the road and the parking lot, had not granted a permission for the parking fees, they were illegal. By collecting the parking fees the landowners were also blocking traffic on a public roadway.

Other parking fees in Iceland are all legal

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss waterfall The local municipality charges 700 ISK for parking at Seljalandsfoss. The fees pay for maintaining the walking paths and parking lot. Photo/Anton Brink

The situation at Hraunfossar has caused some confusion among some foreign visitors and locals. Some have questioned whether visitors should pay the parking fees at National Parks, including Þingvellir and Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park, and the parking fees at Seljalandsfoss waterfall. 

Despite such speculation there is no question about the legality of any of these parking fees: These fees are all levied by public authorities who have full legal authority to charge for parking on public land, or in cooperation with landowners. Landowners at sites which have been declared protected natural monuments must get a permission from the Environment Agency before imposing fees. This was not done at Hraunfossar waterfalls. Hraunfossar is a protected natural site.

Any fees charged by private individuals for the use of private land are also legal, including the fee at crater lake Kerið on the Golden Circle: Private landowners can charge for the use of their land. 

Kerið1.jpg

Kerið crater lake Landowners charge visitors 400 ISK for visiting the site. The money pays for maintenance. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Travellers are also advised that fees levied at other natural sites in Iceland, including Seljalandsfoss, Kerið, Þingvellir National Park and Skaftafell, are used to pay for maintenance of essential infrastructure. The number of visitors at these sites has skyrocketed in recent years, creating great challenges as walking paths, parking lots, toilets and other public facilities were not built to accommodate the large numbers. It takes time and resources to make the necessary investments, and parking fees help meet these costs.

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