How to Get Free Family Access to National Parks

The "Every Kid in a Park" Campaign Is Opening Doors for Fourth Graders

Family in Park
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Outdoor activity is a cornerstone of health for children's development, but according to the National Wildlife Federation, the average American child now spends less than 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day. Outdoor play has been replaced by indoor play, with children spending more than seven hours daily in front of a screen.

As indoor play has increased and outdoor play has decreased, American children have simultaneously seen an increase in detrimental health outcomes.

For instance, childhood obesity has soared, vitamin D deficiency has increased, nearsightedness has increased and the prevalence of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure have increased. While this is more an observation of correlation rather than causation, it's easy to see how reduced outdoor play, which frequently provides an outlet for physical activity, could be a major contributing factor to these negative health outcomes.

According to a white paper put together by The Trust for Public Land in 2006, access to public parks and open spaces increases physical activity and health. The challenge is, technology has made it easy for kids to stay indoors, and parents like knowing their kids are safe under their watchful eyes. This is particularly true in urban areas where safety concerns are higher and access to playgrounds and parks is lower.

Every Kids in a Park Initiative

That's why the new White House Initiative, Every Kid in a Park is so amazing.

Starting September 1, 2015, every fourth grader in the country is eligible to receive a free annual pass that grants access to all national parks and public spaces. And it's not just the child who receives free access - the whole family can hit up the parks at no cost.

The initiative is also dedicated to helping students access parks by expanding transportation resources to schools and families who want to schedule field trips or visits.

The goal is for children and their families to experience the outdoors in a real and tangible way, while encouraging experiential learn in nature's classroom. Starting September 1, your fourth grader can sign up at the National Park Foundation website.

Other Opportunities for Free Park Access

If you don't have a fourth grader or you don't have kids, there are other ways to receive free access to National Parks. Typically, an annual park pass costs $80, but if you meet any of the following criteria, you can get in for free:

  1. You're part of the military
  2. You have a permanent disability
  3. You've volunteered more than 250 service hours with a participating agency (participating agencies include the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management or Bureau of Reclamation)

Also, if you're 62 years or older (or if you know someone who is!), there's a $10 lifetime pass available to seniors.

For more information on any of these programs, go here.

Getting Active in National Parks

National Parks are good for more than just beautiful scenery and nature hikes.

There are lots of alternative fitness activities you can partake in when you know what's available. For instance, you can horseback ride, surf, sandboard, and geocache.

Find a Park Today.

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