Friday, January 11, 2013

Freebie Friday: Fewer Free National Park Days

For anyone who's been watching the National Park Service budget shrink faster than a cashmere sweater dumped in the dryer, this cut back in programs should come as no surprise. Still, it's a shame that the NPS has had to cut back on the 2013 days it will open its gates free of charge to the public. Not only were these freebies a wonderful way to guarantee that ALL our citizens--and not just the well-heeled ones--got to enjoy our nation's greatest treasure. But the free days also carry with them wonderful special programs for visitors, from guided hikes to children's activities to lectures by learned experts.

That being said, in 2013 the National Park Service will be able to sponsor just 11 free days, down from 17 in 2012.

These will be:
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day: January 21
  • National Parks Week: April 22 – 26
  • Get Outdoors Day: June 8
  • National Public Lands Day: September 28
  • Veterans Day Weekend: November 9 – 11

According to a recent USA Today poll National Park visits will be the third most popular form of vacation in the US next year (after beach and lake vacations and road trips). With that in mind, it's good to remember that there are 398 parks in the system, of which only 133 charge entry fees. Of course, these are the most popular parks (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc.).

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