National Park Fee Free Days, in a word, glorious

Elk, Yellostone National Park

Elk, Yellostone National Park

Elk, Yellostone National Park

While Yellowstone is posting record numbers of visitors this year, National Parks as a whole have seen attendance slide in recent years.

In hopes of reversing the trend and re-introducing folks to our wonderful public lands heritage, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced back in June that the Department would waive entrance fees nationwide to all parks on three prime summer weekends. This is no small offer as park entrance fees have really climbed in past years. Nearby Yellowstone sits at $25 for entrance (that does give in and out privileges for 7 days).

This upcoming weekend (July 18-19) is free weekend number two. The third and last weekend is August 15-16.

So come one, come all. Just remember to leave your guns at home. You can’t bring those until next year!.

For more info. and parks near you, visit:
http://www.nps.gov/FINDAPARK/FEEFREEPARKS.HTM

Park concessionaires (the corporations that run the amenities within the park) have also gotten into the spirit (a bit). You can find concession deals here: http://www.parkpartners.org/view/324/28725/Special-2009-Offers.html

As a postscript
I’m pretty non-plussed on some of the partner deals and the absence of Xanterra is inexcusable (Xanterra is the major park concessionaire for parks such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite). Having worked with the Yellowstone Xanterra group on a short TV segment a few years back, I’m a little stunned as they seemed very committed to the public. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong and that I’ve missed Xanterra’s offers.

As a post-postscript
Bill Schneider has been calling for Interior to free the parks for at least a couple of years. In June, he posted from his NewWest.net blog some backstory on this announcement, including this:

Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Salazar, told Associated Press that giving up entrance fees for the three weekends on the 147 national parks charging them would mean about $500,000 in lost revenue for the NPS. But she said increase in park-related tourism income for gift shops, outfitters, restaurants, hotels, and other local businesses would more than make up for the loss.

Take a moment to digest that statement. If this is true, and I have no doubt that it is, for these three free weekends, then it would be even more true for the entire year, right? So what’s stopping us from coming out even further ahead, economically, by permanently waiving park entrance fees?