Veterans and Gold Star families will soon be able to access the country’s national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands for free for the rest of their lives. The program starts on a fitting day — Veterans Day.
“With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veteran’s Day and every single day thereafter,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a statement last month.
Starting Wednesday, the program will waive “standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” according to the National Park Service.
It also gives veterans and Gold Star families access to about 2,000 public areas sitting on over 400 million acres of public lands across the country, according to the department release. Current members of the military and their dependents can already head into the national parks at zero cost with a Military Pass.
To commemorate #VeteransDay and honor those who have served in the military, @SecBernhardt announced that Gold Star Families and Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces will have free entrance to national parks forever. Learn more at https://t.co/AzFJbBEOwv #DOIDelivers pic.twitter.com/I43ZWVuW1k
— National Park Service (@NatlParkService) November 10, 2020
To start exploring for free, veterans simply need to present a proper form of identification, such as a Department of Defense Identification Card or Veteran ID Card, at national parks that charge entrance fees. Gold Star family members must bring a printed and signed voucher to present to a park ranger or place on their vehicle’s dashboard.
The free access extends to others traveling with the veterans and Gold Star servicemembers, with some restrictions. Others traveling in the same car as the veteran or voucher-holder or three additional people over the age of 16 can also get in for free, according to the release.
The National Park Service said free access to parks and other public lands will “continue indefinitely,” unless the order is “amended, superseded, or revoked.”
If one doesn’t qualify for the program, there is still a chance for a free visit this year. Any visitors can get into national parks that charge admission without taking out their wallets on Veterans Day. The holiday is one of the National Park Service’s “fee-free days.”
Some of the country’s national parks closed or modified their offerings this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many reopening, at least in a limited capacity, since.