A golden-mantled ground squirrel greets early season hikers along St.
Mary Lake in Glacier National Park. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
In this Feb. 3, 2005 file photo, Jon Crandall of Coram, Mont., paddles his canoe across Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Mont. Scientists said Wednesday, April 7, 2010 that Glacier National Park has lost two more of its namesake moving icefields to climate change, which is shrinking the rivers of ice until they grind to a halt (Associated Press)

Parks offer fee-free days

Incentives boost tourism, lure public outdoors

National parks will be waiving entrance fees for three days to celebrate Veterans Day weekend, Friday through next Sunday.

Fee-free days have been offered the past two years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Area national forests, such as in the Blue Mountains, Okanogan and Western Washington, are offering free admission to trailheads and other fee access sites on Friday.

And the deals will continue in 2012 when, for the third consecutive year, visitors will enjoy free admission to national parks on 17 days.

Some of those freebies include three-day holiday weekends and even a week-long celebration of National Parks Week.

National forests, national wildlife refuges and BLM areas that charge fees are offering a slightly reduced schedule of free admission days.

“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,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, noting that national parks and public lands serve as an economic engine for many local communities, support jobs and drive tourism.

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

• Other freebies: Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service will waive their entrance and standard amenity fees Jan. 14-16, June 9, Sept. 29, and Nov. 10-12. The Bureau of Reclamation will waive standard amenity fees on Sept. 29 and Nov. 12. 

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