By Lisa Daniel - American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 15, 2012 – Service members and their families will be able to enter all of America’s national parks free of charge for a year under an initiative announced today.
The pass – the
America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass, which normally costs $80 –
will become available to service members and their dependents on Armed Forces Day, May 19.
The passes allow the holder and passengers in a single private vehicle access to some 2,000 sitesthat charge per vehicle. At sites where entrance fees are charged per person, it covers the pass owner and three adults age 16 and older.
The National Park Service estimates that giving away the passes to service members and their families will result in a revenue loss between $2 million and $6 million, but Jarvis said that won’t cause a significant impact on the agency, which collects about $150 million in fees each year.
Military personnel can get the passes at any national park or wildlife refuge that charges an entrance fee by showing their military ID. Family members also will be able to obtain their own pass, even if the service member is deployed or if they are traveling separately.
The pass will be accepted at National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.
The free pass will be made available for activated members of the National Guard and reserves, but not for military veterans or retirees, whom Jarvis said have other opportunities for free or reduced admission, such as the National Park Service’s “Access Pass” or a seniors pass for those 62 and older.
The free pass initiative is part of the “Joining Forces” campaign launched last year to rally Americans around supporting service members and their families.
"Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to our servicemen and women who make great sacrifices to protect our country and preserve our freedom," Dr. Biden said in a White House statement. "In recognition of their service, we are so pleased to be putting out a welcome mat for our military families at America's most beautiful and storied sites."