Interior Secretary Plans Free Weekend Entry to National Parks to Boost Tourism
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says national parks that charge entrance fees will waive those fees for three weekends this summer in a bid to boost tourism. Wouldn't it be nice if the fees were waived for the entire summer!
During a swing through Ohio today with a stop at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Interior secretary said national parks can provide Americans with "affordable vacations for families."
"I encourage everyone to visit one of our nation’s crown jewels this summer and especially to take advantage of the three free-admission weekends,” said Secretary Salazar.
Of the 391 units of the National Park System, 147 charge entrance fees ranging from $3 to $25. The weekends targeted for free entry are June 20-21, July 18-19, and August 15-16. Along with encouraging folks to visit the parks, the Interior secretary cast an eye on the economic stimulus their visits could generate.
“National Parks also serve as powerful economic engines for local communities and we hope that promoting visitation will give a small shot in the arm to businesses in the area,” he said.
In conjunction with waiving the entrance fees, the Interior secretary said many park partners, including tour operators, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and other vendors will offer additional discounts and special promotions on those dates. More information on the fees and discounts can be found at this website.
Most Americans live less than a day’s drive from a park, the secretary noted. Nationwide, parks last year attracted more than 275 million recreation visits. Spending by non-local visitor provided $10.6 billion for local economies, supporting more than 213,000 jobs, not counting National Park Service jobs.
“Tourism income helps America’s economic recovery,” Secretary Salazar said. “National park sites in the Great Lakes states, for example, attract 8 million recreation visits a year that bring $211 million into the local economies. Spending by visitors from out of the area supports 4,400 local jobs. So these areas need to maintain and expand this vital tourism.”
The waiver does not include other fees collected in advance or by contractors—such as fees charged for camping, reservations, tours and use of concessions.
While it would be nice if the entrance fees were waived for the entire summer, that would be a costly proposition for the National Park Service, which estimates it takes in $500,000 a day during the summer in entrance fees.