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National parks to waive fees on 3 weekends

For three weekends this summer, motorhome travelers and others won't have to pay entrance fees at any U.S. National Park Serivce site.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the initiative June 2 at a news conference at Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

“During these tough economic times, our national parks provide opportunities for affordable vacations for families,” Salazar said. “I encourage everyone to visit one of our nation’s crown jewels this summer and especially to take advantage of the three free-admission weekends.”

There are 391 National Park Service sites located across the country in 49 states. All 147 sites that charge entrance fees will waive them for June 20 and 21, July 18 and 19, and August 15 and 16. The fees range from $3 to $25.

The waiver does not include other fees collected in advance or by contractors — such as fees charged for camping, reservations, tours and use of concessions.

The other 244 parks do not charge entrance fees.

Many park partners, including tour operators, hotels, restaurants, gift shops and other vendors, will offer additional discounts and special promotions on those dates. More information on the fees and discounts can be found at www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.

Most Americans live less than a day’s drive from a park, Salazar said. Nationwide, parks last year attracted more than 275 million recreation visits. Spending by non-local visitors provided $10.6 billion for local economies, supporting more than 213,000 jobs, not counting National Park Service jobs.

“National Parks also serve as powerful economic engines for local communities. National park sites in the Great Lakes states, for example, attract 8 million recreation visits a year that bring $211 million into the local economies. Spending by visitors from out of the area supports 4,400 local jobs. So these areas need to maintain and expand this vital tourism.”

For more information, visit the National Park Service website. www.nps.gov.

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