WASHINGTON, D.C. - To encourage Americans to explore America's natural beauty, rich history and culture, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced last week that the National Park Service will waive admission fees on 17 days in 2012.
"From Independence Hall to our newest national park, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, our national parks tell the story of America, from the beauty of our land to our struggle for freedom and justice," Secretary Salazar said. "Whether or not it's during one of the 17 fee free days next year, I encourage everyone to visit a park near them and enjoy the remarkable landscapes and historical and cultural sites that are unique to our great country."
Salazar emphasized that national parks and public lands serve as an economic engine for many local communities, supports jobs and driving tourism. Recreation in national parks, refuges, and other public lands fueled nearly $55 billion in economic activity and supported 440,000 jobs in 2009.
Fee free dates for 2012 are Jan. 14-16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend), April 21-29 (National Park Week), June 9 (Get Outdoors Day), Sept. 29 (National Public Lands Day), and Nov. 10-12 (Veterans Day weekend). More information is available at www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.
In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service will waive their entrance and standard amenity fees January 14-16, June 9, Sep. 29 and Nov. 10-12. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also have a fee free day on Oct. 14 in recognition of National Wildlife Refuge Week. The Bureau of Reclamation will waive standard amenity fees on Sept. 29 and Nov. 12.
Many park-related hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and tour operators will offer specials on fee free days.
"The majority of national parks don't have an entrance fee and those that do charge a maximum of $25 a week for an entire family" said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "We realize there are additional expenses when visiting a park so many associated businesses will have discounts and enhancements on the fee free days."
Jarvis added a national park vacation can be as economical or luxurious as desired.
"A visit can be a few hours or several days," Jarvis said. "One could pack their lunch or eat at a snack bar, cafeteria, or gourmet dining room. One could sleep under the stars in the backcountry or stay in a campground, motel, or majestic lodge. There is something for everyone at each of the country's 395 national parks. So mark the dates, grab a friend or family member - especially one that has never been to a park before - and come visit one of your national parks."