Some senior citizens who applied for — but have yet to receive — their lifetime passes to the nation’s parks may find a gift in their stockings this Christmas that will benefit them for the rest of their days. That’s because the government expects all of the passes to be mailed out sometime in the next 30 days, according to the AARP.
The news comes after the National Park Service said that seniors rushing to beat a steep price increase on lifetime passes created a logjam so severe that it delayed the processing of the requests.
Rush on lifetime senior passes at national parks causes major delays
The park service announced in July that it was raising the price on lifetime passes for seniors at the nation’s national parks and federal lands from $10 to $80 to “enhance the visitor experience in parks.” People age 62 and older qualify for the passes, which have cost $10 for the past 23 years.
Many seniors use the holidays to tour national sites and parks as many of their working-age family members have time off to accompany them. Even without the passes in hand, seniors who can produce a receipt or email confirmation can still enjoy the benefits, AARP reports, citing a parks spokesperson.
The price hike was set to take place on August 28, 2017, causing a flood of requests. To get a picture of the frenzy created by the price hike, the park service says that for all of 2016, they received 33,000 orders for lifetime passes. This year, it ballooned to 957,000, with nearly two-thirds of that coming in August, the AARP reports.
Looking at ways to bring in more revenue, the National Park Service is scrutinizing admission prices, which are soaring across the country. Of particular concern is the condition and age of many of the trails, bridges and roads that many Americans utilize in the parks on a daily basis.
“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said last month in a park service news release. “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting. We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today. Shoring up our parks’ aging infrastructure will do that.”
So how much of a deal are seniors getting at U.S. parks and federal sites? Here are the admission fees to some of the most popular landmarks in the United States.
- Yosemite National Park — Sedan (up to six seats): $25 (plus $15 per person)
- Yellowstone National Park — $30 for non-commercial vehicle; $15 per person on foot, bike or ski
- Everglades National Park — $25 for private vehicles; pedestrian/bicyclist $8 (all are good for 7 straight days)
As you can see, a $10 fee even for a whole year is a great bargain. And $80 for a lifetime is a steal of a deal. No wonder seniors were clamoring to take advantage of it!