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Wed, Dec. 11

Finding ways to save on park entrance fees: America the Beautiful pass program

File photo

File photo

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - With a recent increase in park entrance fees, some tourists and visitors to national parks might hesitate at visiting national parks and recreation areas around the country.

However, the America the Beautiful pass program is one way visitors can save money this year.

The America the Beautiful pass program is one of the largest interagency passes offered. It is part of the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass also known as the interagency pass program.

It offers four different passes, that are good for a year or a lifetime, depending on individual qualifications and which pass is purchased.

All of the passes can be used at any of the five Federal recreation agencies, including the National Parks Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Included in the America the Beautiful pass program is the annual pass, senior pass, access pass and volunteer pass.

The Annual Pass, can be purchased by anyone 16 years and older for $80 and is valid one year from the date it is purchased. Two people can sign to receive the pass and do not have to be related or married. The annual pass also covers motorcyclists, which allow entrance for two motorcycles, as long as the two people who sign the pass arrive at the same time on two motorcycles. Additionally, the pass covers pass holding bicyclists and up to three additional cyclists.

The Senior Pass is a lifetime pass and is $10. A senior is considered anyone 62 years and older. To purchase the senior pass you must be a U.S. citizen and a permanent resident.

The Access Pass is offered to those with documentation of permanent disability and is offered to U.S. citizens and permanent residents at no charge. It is also valid for life.

The Volunteer Pass, requires an annual renewal and is offered to those who have earned 250 hours of volunteer service on public lands. The volunteer pass can be used by the pass holder and passengers in one non-commercial vehicle and also covers per person entrance fees for the pass holder and up to three additional adults.

The Senior and Access Passes occasionally provide pass holders discounts on other amenities or fee areas, including camping at some of the agencies. However, not all the passes provide discounts.

According to the national park's website, these annual and lifetime passes provide U.S. citizens and visitors an affordable option for recreation opportunities and provide access to more than 2,000 recreation areas, with 100 percent of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services.

The America the Beautiful passes were first sold in 2007 and replaced the Golden Eagle Passport, National Parks Pass, Golden Eagle Hologram, Golden Age Passport and Golden Access Passport.

Additionally, the NPS offers free entrance to active duty military and their dependents, with proper identification.

Frequent visitors to Grand Canyon can purchase an annual Grand Canyon National Park pass for $60.

Additionally, along with the park entrance fee increases, which went into effect June 1, all Grand Canyon Railway. reservations that include a total of two to nine adult passengers are charged a flat $30 NPS entrance fee. This $30 amount is based on the new single vehicle entrance rate at the park.

However, if visitors possess any type of annual or lifetime NPS entrance pass they will continue to be exempt from the park entrance fees, even if they arrive in the park on the Grand Canyon Railway. The Grand Canyon Railroad is asking visitors to be prepared to provide the pass to the railroad's reservation agent when making reservations for the Grand Canyon Railway.

The NPS also offers nine fee free days throughout the year. The next fee free day is August 25 in celebration of the NPS's 99th birthday.

The America the Beautiful passes may be purchased around the country at many federal sites and through U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at (888) 275-8747 option 3, or online at

http://store.usgs.gov/pass

More information about America the Beautiful passes and other park and recreation passes can be found at, http://store.usgs.gov/pass/general.html

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