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Our view: Seniors should snap up national park passes

Deal ends this month

Published on August 21, 2017 12:01AM


Seniors 62 and older have less than a week left to take advantage of a great deal — a lifetime pass to national parks and recreation for only $10. On Aug. 28, the price jumps to $80, a seven-fold increase.

The price hike was approved during the final year of President Barack Obama’s term, and the National Park Service announced last month that it would become effective this month. The $10 pass, known as the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass, has been available since 1994. It was free before that. The National Park Service says money generated from the increase will be used for badly needed deferred maintenance and to enhance programs and services.

While the increase is hefty, especially for those on fixed incomes, it’s still a great deal for anyone who misses out on the $10 deal or doesn’t yet qualify for a pass. Seniors can also opt to purchase an annual pass rather than a lifetime pass for $20. Four annual senior passes purchased in prior years can be traded for a lifetime pass.

Both passes provide free access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies: the National Park Service; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the Bureau of Land Management; the Bureau of Reclamation; the U.S. Forest Service; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While the lifetime pass favors frequent visitors, both types of passes cover entrance and standard day-use recreation fees and provide discounts on other fees.

Of the nation’s 417 national parks, 118 — including the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park — have an entrance fee. But either pass grants its holder and up to three other adults in a non-commercial vehicle free admittance. At the Lewis and Clark park, that alone would represent a savings of $20, the cost of an annual pass, and at many sites it provides the pass owner with additional discounts on fees for amenities such as camping, swimming, boat launching and guided tours.

At Lewis and Clark, Superintendent Jon Burpee says the demand for the passes has been “incredibly high,” and that while the park is currently out of passes, it is issuing rain checks to those who purchase them before the deadline. They can be purchased at the Fort Clatsop Visitors Center.

The passes are a great deal now, and despite the cost, it’s still a good deal after Aug. 28 for those who qualify.



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