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Monday Brings Free Entrance To All 401 Units Of National Park System


Live in Ohio? Spend Monday at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Jay Crawford photo.

If you're lucky enough to have Monday off in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, treat yourself with a visit to your nearest national park. Monday is the first of nine days this year when entrance fees to the parks will be waived.

So whether you are close to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Acadia National Park in Maine, Everglades National Park in Florida, or Olympic National Park in Washington state, you won't have to pay to enjoy a day in the parks.

“National parks are well-known for scenic beauty and outdoor recreation, but they are also fantastic places to learn about the people and events that have shaped our nation,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in a prepared statement. “Historic sites, battlefields and memorials across the country preserve the places and tell the stories of our national struggles and accomplishments. I encourage everyone to take time to visit a national park on Monday, especially one of the many dedicated to Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.”

National parks directly associated with Dr. King include the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama and the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C., which includes the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King made his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

The African American Heritage section of contains a series of travel itineraries, essays, and lesson plans. There are also links to the dozens of national parks dedicated to African American history and culture, including New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (La.), George Washington Carver National Monument (Mo.), Booker T. Washington National Monument (Va.) and Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial (Calif.).

Many national parks will also participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service which encourages people to come together to serve their neighbors and communities in the spirit of Dr. King. Fort DuPont Park (D.C.), Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (Calif.), Rock Creek Park (D.C.), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area(Penn.) and Valley Forge National Historical Park (Penn.) are among the hundreds of places nationwide hosting volunteer projects.

In addition to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the National Park Service will waive admission fees on eight other days in 2014 – Presidents Day weekend (February 15 through 17), the first weekend of National Park Week (April 19 and 20), the National Park Service’s 98th birthday (August 25), National Public Lands Day (September 27) and Veterans Day (November 11).

National park passes that provide free or discounted admission year round are available for active duty military members and their dependents, senior citizens, and people with permanent disabilities.


Unless, of course, you happen to be carrying a backpack in the Smokies. Then you are entreated to the privilege of navigating a complicated, computer based registration system that may or may not be working to secure your unimproved spot on the ground for sleeping with no amenities for which you are required to use your printer ink to print off a reservation and payment information. All the for the purpose of maintaining the computer based reservation system. Only in the federal government could a solution be concocted for a problem that never existed in the first place. Seems a fitting way to celebrate MLK day.

SmokiesBackpacker, not being very informed on the Great Smokies trail issues, is the fee for backpacking a reservations fee, or a user fee and how much is charged? I have been opposed to charging fees for hiking, backpacking. I am, however, a little sympathetic in paying for reservations if visitor capacities in wilderness areas exceed levels the area can ecologically sustain. It is a price we pay for population growth and increased demand on the resource, at least that is my view. This is an interesting issue.


It is very interesting when you look at the data on backcountry usage they employed to justify the fee. Backcountry use has been on the decline in the Smokies since the 90s. By the time they decided to institute a fee for empty campsites in 2011 the avg number of backpacker nights had dropped to 79000 which averages less than two campers per campsite per night in sites rated, on average, 10 and 12 people. This has nothing to do with resource protection and everything to do with revenue generation and keeping people out of the backcountry period. In the first year since this fee was enacted, backcountry usage has been reduced by thirty percent. The current fee is $4 per person per night. For a family of four that is $32 for a two night backpacking trip. More expensive than car camping at a campground with amenities like toilets, level tent sites etc. The NPS has done a great job of running people out of the Smokies backcountry. Unless you are a private resort like Blackberry Farms with your own trail system inside the park boundary. That is what happens when you have a crooked Tn senator in your backpocket who has financial ties to the resort. The Smokies exists for auto tourists and wealthy folks. Everyone else is just "riff raff". I would encourage you to visit the website. It has all this information in detail. There are NO amenities provided by the NPS in the backcountry. None. Bear cables are donated and shelters are built and donated by volunteers. Virtually all trail maintenance is done through a private grant from the Aslan foundation. But to hear the NPS in the Smokies talk, they spend an inordinate amt of time and resources there. I can assure you, having familiarized myself with their budget, its a lie.

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