9 fee-free days at national parks in ’14

Staff reportDecember 29, 2013 

The National Park Service has set the dates in 2014 on which no entrance fees will be charged. Nine fee-free days are scheduled next year.

The 2014 days are:

Jan. 20: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Feb. 15-17: Presidents Day weekend

April 19-20: National Park Week’s opening weekend

Aug. 25: National Park Service’s 98th birthday

Sept. 27: National Public Lands Day

Nov. 11: Veterans Day

On those days, visitors can enter any of 133 of the 401 national parks that usually charge an entrance fee, ranging from $3 to $25. That includes area parks such as Mount Rainier and Olympic, and Washington destinations such as Fort Vancouver.

Other fees such as camping, tours and concessions still will be charged.

With more than 84 million acres of scenery, 17,000 miles of trails, 5,000 miles of shoreline, 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures, and 100 million museum items and an infinite number of authentic American stories to tell, national parks offer something for every taste, according to a Park Service news release.

The system includes the country’s highest point (in Denali National Park) and lowest point (in Death Valley National Park), deepest lake (Crater Lake National Park), longest cave (Mammoth Cave National Park), tallest trees (Redwood National Park) and highest waterfall (Yosemite National Park).

Other federal land management agencies that will offer fee-free days in 2014 are U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.

WATER TRAILS GRANT

The Kitsap Waters Trails Alliance will be able to develop a management program with the help of a grant from the National Park Service.

The group is working to develop a sustainable water trails management program for the 371-mile Kitsap Peninsula Water Trails. The grant will be used to develop policies, procedures and best practices across jurisdictions to maintain and expand the Kitsap water trail system.

Sue Abbott of the National Park Service will work with members of the Kitsap alliance, which includes representatives from the county, cities, tribes, recreational groups and businesses.

Gig Harbor and communities in Mason County also are interested in participating in expansion of the water trails program. Trails officials are working to get the Kitsap water trail designated as part of the Park Service’s water trails program in early 2014.

INTERPRETIVE RANGER DIES

Ruth Kerr, an interpretive ranger at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park’s Seattle Unit, died Nov. 26. A memorial to commemorate her life was Saturday.

Before joining the Klondike staff, Kerr volunteered at Mount Rainier National Park and worked for the Social Security Administration. She also worked for the Forest Service at Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as a forestry technician, where she patrolled frontcountry recreational areas and was a wildland firefighter.

Kerr began working as a park ranger in the Seattle Klondike unit in 2005. She worked to bring the stories of the Gold Rush to life through living history programs, children’s puppet shows, sourdough baking demonstrations, the Northwest Notes speaker series and other efforts.

November visits

Mount Rainier

November 2013: 59,344

November 2012: 28,224

Difference: 110.26 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 1,130,946

Year-to-date 2012: 1,042,093

Difference: 8.52 percent

It’s hard to say if it was pent-up demand created by the October closure, or fresh snow to play in, but November’s recreational visit count was the highest for that month since 2004. The count for the year has already exceeded the 2012 total of 1,059,005.

Olympic

November 2013: 89,154

November 2012: 83,363

Difference: 6.95 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 2,980,174

Year-to-date 2012: 2,712,426

Difference: 9.87 percent

Visitation at Olympic also rebounded, just not to the extent it did at Mount Rainier. While the November count is an improvement compared with 2012, it is still well below the five-year average of slightly more than 111,000 visits.

National Park Service

November 2013: 16,016,340

November 2012: 15,135,061

Difference: 5.82 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 255,997,744

Year-to-date 2012: 270,651,974

Difference: -5.41 percent

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