America’s Best Idea Still Getting Better

From sea to shining sea, the United States has some of the most breath taking national parks and scenic wonderlands. Every single national park has very important significance embedded into the landscape and has been passed down for generations now and ones to come.

To encourage Americans to explore America’s natural beauty, rich history, and culture, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced 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.”

All visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park should tour the main section of the cave, the Big Room self-guided tour. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Salazar emphasized that our national parks and public lands serve as an economic engine for many local communities, supports jobs, and drives tourism. Recreation in national parks, refuges, and other public lands fueled nearly $55 billion in economic activity and supported 440,000 jobs in 2009.

Mark your calendar for these fee-free days in 2012:

January 14-16: Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend

April 21-29: National Park Week

June 9: Get Outdoors Day

September 29: National Public Lands Day

November 10-12: Veterans Day weekend

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, September 29, and November 10-12.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also have a fee free day on October 14 in recognition of National Wildlife Refuge Week.

The Bureau of Reclamation will waive standard amenity fees on September 29 and November 12.

Mesa Verde is the first and only park created for the protection and preservation of archaeological resources and is the only World Heritage Site in Colorado. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.”

“One of the great things about a national park vacation is it can be as economical or luxurious as desired,” added Jarvis. “A visit can be a few hours or several days. 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.”

Details

National Park Service

Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, the park service is proud to safeguard these special places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites in America’s 397 national parks.

Website: nps.gov

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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