Whit’s End: National Park Services senior lifetime pass fees increase Aug. 28 | PostIndependent.com

Whit’s End: National Park Services senior lifetime pass fees increase Aug. 28

Carla Jean Whitley, Molly Owens and Julie Pokryfke hike in Canyonlands National Park.
Cait Kennett

If you go

Purchase your America the Beautiful pass to the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands at White River National Forest district offices in Aspen, Rifle and Carbondale. Annual passes are $80, or free for U.S. military and fourth-grade students. Senior lifetime passes are $10 until Aug. 28, when the price increases to $80. Access and volunteer passes are also available. Visit nps.gov for additional locations and details.

Sometimes I wish I was a little bit older.

I’m not trying to wish my years away, not really. I do occasionally pout that I wasn’t around for the great music of the ’60s; I would have loved to have seen The Beatles in concert, for example, but I know I wouldn’t have been able to hear them over the screams (mine and others’). I’ll settle for solo Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr shows, instead.

But this week, I’ve envied my mother for her 62 years. She’s just old enough to snag a lifetime National Parks Service pass before the price increases on Aug. 28.

Until that date, Americans ages 62 and older can purchase a pass for only $10. It’s an incredible deal; anyone can purchase an annual pass, but it will run you eight times that senior rate. ($80 for a year at these wonders is still a deal, I’d argue. But I’m also a bargain hunter — just like my mother — so I’d much prefer the $10 rate.)

Come Aug. 28, the senior lifetime pass will increase to $80. A $20 senior annual pass will also be available. It’s the first price increase for the pass since 1994 and is the result of legislation passed in December. That requires the senior pass to be equal to the cost of the general annual pass.

Regardless of how much you pay, there’s a lot to be gained from a parks pass. The senior pass includes access to not only National Park Service sites (and there are a lot of those!). It’s also good for admission and standard amenities at sites managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That’s more than 2,000 sites in total.

I’m newly obsessed with our National Park Service. My home state, Alabama, has 11 sites managed by NPS, including the recently designated Freedom Riders and Birmingham Civil Rights monuments. I previously associated the term BLM with the Black Lives Matter movement; moving west has forced me to add Bureau of Land Management to my mental associations.

Colorado is more than one-third federal land, which means we’re surrounded by unique opportunities to explore. And the West in general is ripe with such land.

My personal to-visit list is long. I’ve yet to make it to even Rocky Mountain National Park or Colorado National Monument; when I’m in the state, I’m still more focused on exploring Garfield County. But I’ve fallen in love with Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, and I know there’s so much more to see.

So yes, I’m jealous of my mother’s age, but I’m also encouraging her to take advantage of the existing senior discount. She’s marked her calendar for a visit to St. Augustine, Florida’s Castillo de San Marcos, where she’ll purchase her pass. If you’re of appropriate age, I encourage you to find the nearest location to do the same. And if you’re not, you can be like me and my dad, who is disappointed — for a change! — that he’s a year younger than his bride.

Carla Jean Whitley is the features editor of the Post Independent. Canyonlands is her favorite national park, but she’s open to change. Tell her about your favorite by emailing cj@postindependent.com.

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