Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that the National Park Service will offer three fee-free weekends this summer to encourage Americans seeking affordable vacations to visit their national treasures. There are 391 national parks located across the country in 49 states.
“During these tough economic times, our national parks provide opportunities for affordable vacations for families,” Salazar said at a press conference at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. “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.”
“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. The 147 National Park Service sites across the country that charge fees for entry will waive these entrance fees during the weekends of June 20-21, July 18-19, and August 15-16, 2009. Meanwhile, 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 http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.
“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 visitors 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,” Salazar said. “Spending by visitors from out of the area supports…local jobs. So these areas need to maintain and expand this vital tourism.”
The entrance fees being waived at the 147 sites that usually charge for admission range from $3 to $25. The 244 other parks do not charge entrance fees. 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. Joshua Tree National Park will waive the $15 per car entrance fee on the fee-free weekends, however camping fees will be collected as normal.
The Oasis Visitor Center, at 74485 National Park Drive in Twentynine Palms, and the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, at 6554 Park Boulevard in the community of Joshua Tree, are free and are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information, publications, exhibits, and park permits and passes are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. At the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, the special “Miles of Wonder” photography exhibit by local nature photographer David McChesney will be on display through July 8, 2009. The Cottonwood Visitor Center will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day through the summer.
The National Park Service website provides information to help the public plan their park adventures at www.nps.gov. The Joshua Tree National Park website can be visited at www.nps.gov/jotr. Visitors can also call for park information at 760-367-5500.