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Travel and You

Communing With Nature in the U.S.--for a Fee!

March 15, 1987|TONI TAYLOR | Taylor, an authority on the travel industry, lives in Los Angeles.

As visits to some national parks and sites are no longer free, or a little more expensive, there is all the more reason to plan such excursions carefully.

The National Park Service, which runs 337 sites, has begun a new entrance fee policy that creates charges at 72 places for the first time, and increases charges at 62 other places. The extra money is slated to be used, according to the park service, a part of the Department of the Interior, for such matters as resource protection, scientific research, maintenance, etc.

Communing with nature at national parks may become more expensive, as the park system is expected to ask Congress for authority to charge even higher entrance fees and to levy these charges at more sites.

Fees will be either $1 or $2 for walk-in visits and $3 or $5 per vehicle. For example, Yosemite National Park's entrance fee went up from $3 to $5 per vehicle as of Feb. 2. Cabrillo monument in San Diego now has a $1 walk-in and $3 per vehicle charge, and Joshua Tree National Monument at Twenty Nine Palms has corresponding $2 and $5 charges.167772161

Strong Protests

Protests against the new charges were particularly strong in the Philadelphia area, especially in light of the bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Constitution. It will now cost $1 as a walk-in visitor and $3 by vehicle to enter Valley Forge. At Philadelph17679747711701978112sites in this park.

The cost of getting a Golden Eagle Passport, which covers any entrance fees to all areas of the National Park System nationwide, as well as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Preserves, has also gone up from $10 to $25. This pass, good for one calendar year, can be used to cover 1634495520members of your immediate family when you're not arriving by vehicle. The pass doesn't cover use fees such as for camping or parking.

Golden access Passports for disabled visitors and Golden Age Passports for citizens 62 or older, which both provide free lifetime entry, are still gratis.

The park service has also started a policy of offering annual passes at specific parks that now charge entrance fees. The costs of the passes vary from park to park, but would be about three times the price of an individual visit, according to a NPS spokesperson. These passes are sold, on a calendar basis, at the individual parks.

Breaking Down Sites

The NPS breaks down its sites into 23 categories including parks, monuments, historic sites, recreational centers, battlefields, seashores, scenic rivers and riverways, etc.

A national monument, for example, might be historic military fortifications, prehistoric ruins or fossil sites, with this category also including the Statue of Liberty. Recreational centers, such as Golden Gate in San Francisco and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, are almost always outside large urban centers.

The NPS divides the United States into nine regions, with the Western region covering California, Hawaii, Nevada and part of Arizona. However, you can get free literature on any site in the country from the office at 22900 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills 91634. Other free literature includes a guide and map of the United States that breaks down these nine regions and indicates the sites in each area, and a brochure on the Santa Monica Mountains area. Other books and items also are for sale.

You can also call that office at (818) 888-3770 for information about any of the sites. The Golden Access and Golden Age passes have to be obtained in person through the office (open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays), "We have to establish that people qualify for either of these passes," said Jean Bray, an NPS spokesperson.

The Golden Eagle Pass can be obtained by mail. "Just call our office for an application," Bray added.

Give Them a Call

You can also call the office to find out if camping/accommodation space (as well as raft trips, ferry transportation and other specialized activities) are available at any park throughout the country and how much in advance you should make reservations. "People should remember that they have to pay at the time they make their reservation, which can save them a trip here in vain," Bray said.

Some places, of course, are more popular than others and reservations will probably be harder to get during the peak summer season. "You should make reservations for Yosemite at least eight weeks in advance," Bray advised.

In terms of planning a trip, one of the primary things travelers should do regardless of whether they're motoring, hiking, backpacking or any combination of these activities, is to make a checklist of things they may need. "Take along everything you might need and don't depend on being able to get these items en route or at your destination," Bray suggested.

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