Starting this Saturday, and stretching all the way through the following weekend, entrance fees are being waived at all national parks that usually charge for admission.
The occasion is what’s become an annual event, National Park Week, which in 2012 is scheduled for April 21 to 29. It’s one of several periods during the year when normal admissions fees are waived. Other no-fee dates include Get Outdoors Day (June 9), National Public Lands Day (September 29), and Veteran’s Day (November 10 to 12 this year).
How much you’d save on entrance fees depends, of course, on which park you’re visiting. Normal admissions fees range from $25 (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier), to $20 (Yosemite), to $15 (Badlands), to free all year-round (Great Smoky Mountains, Redwood National Park). The Parks Department likes to point out that 397 national parks and monuments, in fact, never charge admission.
But even if and when admission is free, we’re all paying for the national parks to varying degrees. The think tank Third Way offers an annual Tax Receipt Calculator revealing that roughly 1% of your federal tax dollars goes to environmental protection and natural resources, which include the parks system. For the 2009 tax year, for instance, a taxpayer earning the U.S. median income of $34,140 would have paid $5,400 in federal income taxes, including $4.27 that went to national parks.
For the upcoming week at least, consider that your admissions fee.