National parks to waive fees on 17 days in 2012

ATLANTA — The National Park Service is planning to waive entrance fees at national parks on 17 days in 2012, officials announced today.

“From Independence Hall to our newest national park, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, our national parks tell the story of America, from the beauty of our land to our struggle for freedom and justice,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a news release. “Whether or not it’s during one of the 17 fee free days next year, I encourage everyone to visit a park near them and enjoy the remarkable landscapes and historical and cultural sites that are unique to our great country.”

The fee-free dates for 2012 are Jan. 14-16 for Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend; April 21-29 for National Park Week; June 9 for Get Outdoors Day; Sept. 29 for National Public Lands Day; and Nov. 10-12 for Veterans Day weekend.

Park entrance fees at the parks that charge fees generally range from $3 to $25. National Parks in Georgia that normally have fees include the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area in Augusta, the Cumberland Island National Seashore in St. Marys, Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island and Fort Pulaski National Monument in Savannah.

“The majority of national parks don’t have an entrance fee and those that do charge a maximum of $25 a week for an entire family,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a news release. “We realize there are additional expenses when visiting a park so many associated businesses will have discounts and enhancements on the fee free days.”

“One of the great things about a national park vacation is it can be as economical or luxurious as desired,” Jarvis said. “A visit can be a few hours or several days. One could pack their lunch or eat at a snack bar, cafeteria, or gourmet dining room. One could sleep under the stars in the backcountry or stay in a campground, motel, or majestic lodge. There is something for everyone at each of the country’s 395 national parks. So mark the dates, grab a friend or family member – especially one that has never been to a park before – and come visit one of your national parks.”

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