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Hundreds of National Park Service sites will waive their fees in 2021

Though protected lands in the US are open to all, they’re not necessarily accessible to all – except for a handful of times per year, when the National Park Service (NPS) waives entrance fees at every site in the country.

This month, the NPS announced six free-entrance days for 2021: January 18 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), April 17 (the first day of National Park Week), August 4 (the one-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act), August 25 (the birthday of the NPS), September 25 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

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There are 423 National Park Service sites across the US, with representation in each state and territory as well as the District of Columbia. About one-third of those sites charge an entrance fee – anywhere from $5 to $35 – and in 2019, some 327 million people passed through the parks’ gates, according to the NPS.

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“Each of the fee-free days celebrates or commemorates a significant event,” counselor to the secretary Margaret Everson said in a press release. “Throughout the country, every national park provides a variety of opportunities to get out in nature, connect with our common heritage and experience the vast array of benefits that come from spending time outdoors. Hopefully the fee-free days will encourage everyone to spend some time in their national parks.”

Of course, some people qualify for free access year-round. Active-duty military aren’t required to pay, and in November, veterans and gold star families were famously granted a lifetime pass to all federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior. Some younger folks get in free as well: as part of the Every Kid Outdoors program, fourth-graders get a pass, good for one year, to all of the parks in the NPS system, and in 2021, the perk will be extended to fifth-graders as well – a “reprieve” granted in light of the pandemic. For more information, visit nps.gov.



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