Tuesday, December 5, 2023


National Parks may slash benefits to Senior Pass holders

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

If you have a senior pass for the national parks, you could be in for surprises. Seniors already received an unwelcome surprise when lifetime passes for the over-62 set jumped from $10 to $80 a couple of years ago. Now a new recommendation may just cut big benefits to those who hold the America the Beautiful Pass.

The U.S. Department of  Interior Department set up the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee during former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s administration, prior to his removal from office. A subcommittee of that group – the Subcommittee on Recreation Enhancement Through Reorganization – is tasked with advising “the Secretary of the Interior on public–private partnerships across all public lands.”

The subcommittee recently came out with a laundry list of suggestions for the now-Secretary of Interior, David Bernhardt. Among them is one that would have a huge impact on senior park users. It reads: “Confirmation of current practices that 50% senior discounts offered to campers over the age of 62 (established by the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act) apply only to base campsite fees, and introduction of new senior fee blackout periods during peak season periods.

Let’s take a little look at what’s being said here. The subcommittee is suggesting that to help parks deal with maintenance backlogs and to bring them up to a more modern state, seniors will have to bite the bullet. “Senior discounts … apply only to base campsite fees …”. At present, senior pass holders get a 50 percent discount on any campsite fees, not just “base” site fees. But look a little closer – the operative word is “only.” Under current practice, senior pass holders also get half-off discounts on things other than campground fees.

A federal government website says of the pass, “May provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services.” Those “specialized interpretive services” translate to guided tours, and may include transportation systems where fees are charged. So, if we interpret the thinking of the subcommittee, say goodbye to any discounts on upcharges on campsite fees. Say adios to discounts on special tours. No more discounts on park-service-provided transportation fees. So long to discounts for boat launch use and fees paid for swimming areas.

But what some will probably consider the most egregious jab at America’s seniors is the “introduction of new senior fee blackout periods during peak season periods.” Planning a summer camping trip in a national park? If the subcommittee’s suggestion is turned into practice, be ready to pay full-freight on your campsite. And don’t think the subcommittee’s ideas would stop at national park fence lines. The subcommittee writes, “The lessons learned with near-immediate operational changes in national parks can be then replicated for other Interior bureaus, including the Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and, cooperatively, on American Indian lands.”

Other suggestions which promote a greater involvement of private industry in park management and “enhancement” have been blasted by a variety of groups as things they say would shut out lower-income Americans from the nation’s parks. Just how Interior Secretary Bernhardt will receive these ideas is yet to be seen. But in these times of instability in nearly every human sphere, there could well be even more instability for park users in the offing.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Becky (@guest_61690)
3 years ago

Well, just in time for me to use my senior pass and they are talking about cutting the benefits of having one. I have waited all my life to have the opportunity to see our National Parks and am very close to being set up where I can do it on a shoestring budget.(I definetly fit the category of “lower income”)
I was depending on my pass cutting my expenses.
Sounds like it’s time for us “seniors” to start flooding email address and making phone calls to put in our opinion.
This potential hit on National Park Pass is not making me a happy camper at all !

Lana (@guest_61366)
3 years ago

Baby boomers are seniors now & there are a lot of us. Maybe all of us seniors should just boycott all national parks & get our friends & relatives to do the same. How many parks do you think would be able to stay open if we did that? This might be something that Secretary Bernhardt, the Dept. Of the Interior & the rest of the federal government might want think about really hard.

jack valentine (@guest_60159)
3 years ago

This is very easy to stop. Write your senators and congressmen or congress woman that you do not mind them changing the way the Golden Age Passport card that was supposedly good every day of the year.



maybe that will get the message across that seniors are not to be trifled with.

Kathy Derting (@guest_55588)
4 years ago

I really enjoy RV Travel newsletter however, for some reason it keeps going to my junk mail. Any suggestions that I can receive in my in box?


Jessica Sarvis (@guest_55591)
4 years ago
Reply to  Kathy Derting

Hi Kathy, make sure that editor@rvtravel.com is on your whitelist or safe senders list. Here’s a tutorial on how to do it through outlook: https://www.wikihow.com/Add-Approved-Senders-to-Hotmail Thanks!

Dawn athered! Ducoli (@guest_55480)
4 years ago

This is wrong. We should be granfathered! We were told this is what we get!

Ann (@guest_55401)
4 years ago

Y’all voted for the people that want to do this. Still happy about your choice?

Becky (@guest_61691)
3 years ago
Reply to  Ann

I did not vote for them!

Troy (@guest_55069)
4 years ago

I wonder if this affects the disabled veterans pass too?

sfrankus (@guest_54930)
4 years ago

Why doesn’t the parks ask seniors to show up at any national park after labor day and spend 1month with free camping to work on campsites and buildings. The baby boomers are retiring now and millions own RVs and would gladly take the opportunity. Heck even young families are on the road now

Kurt R (@guest_54914)
4 years ago

Why should rv’ing seniors get any discount? Many, if not most, of the senior rv’ers i see have big expensive pickup/5th wheel or trailer combos or big motorhomes. They can afford full fees more than an average working man. This from a senior rv’er who cannot afford the luxury rigs.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_55024)
4 years ago
Reply to  Kurt R

I’m reminded of a joke from back in the 50’s.
“If a man owns a Cadillac, it doesn’t mean he HAS money. It only means he HAD money”.

As a fellow senior, Kurt, a “working man” should darned well BETTER be able to afford more stuff than me on my retired fixed income and savings. Just sayin’.

Sheryl (@guest_55043)
4 years ago
Reply to  Kurt R

We have a GAP, and have enjoyed it, but I thought it was for USA citizens only. We know of a least three Canadian Groups with someone in them that has the pass, not US citizens. I see where they are needing to do something, but when we bought our pass we were told it was for life.

Billy Bob Thorton (@guest_55293)
4 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl

Well, hopefully that scoundrel will have it revoked when the ranger asks for ID along with the pass. I always wondered why I was asked for my Driver ID along with my pass, now I know!

Eab (@guest_55276)
4 years ago
Reply to  Kurt R

just because a lot of seniors have big rigs and big trucks to pull them doesn’t mean they can afford to pay full price on things.
We have a big rig and big truck because we sold everything we owned to live more inexpensively. SS only goes so far and the ever increasing costs of living and our aging bodies doesn’t make life easier. So any discounts are very appreciative.

John T (@guest_54885)
4 years ago

It is not always true that seniors get 50% off the entire campground fee. I have stayed at many ACE, BLM, USFS and NPS campgrounds; some give 50% off the whole fee, and others give 50% off only the base fee, charging the full upgrade for hookups.

The first thing they should do to raise revenue is to end the practice of allowing a senior to bring a car load of younger passengers into a national park for free. If a senior driver is bringing the whole family to a park, they should pay the regular entry fee. Free entry should be for seniors ONLY.

Billy Bob Thorton (@guest_55295)
4 years ago
Reply to  John T

Misinformation here. Inaccurate to say “car load”. It covers you, and three of occupants.

Rich T (@guest_54820)
4 years ago

“Gee maybe they should start charging foreigners a fee to get in instead of letting them visit our national parks for free….” Citation please? This is how “fake news” gets created. Nobody gets in for “free”. Anyone can *buy* a park pass. Does that constitute “free”? What is wrong with people? When did they become so willing to swallow without chewing first?

Billy Bob Thorton (@guest_55297)
4 years ago
Reply to  Rich T

When the House of Representatives fell into enemy hands, that’s when!

Rich T (@guest_55423)
4 years ago

No, see, that’s NOT how you cite a fact. That’s how you express an unfounded opinion. It’s subtle, but there’s a difference.

MARK GILLEY (@guest_54737)
4 years ago

The only way to keep it in place the way it is now is to let your congressman or woman know that we have worked hard all our lives to keep this. I have emailed my person and they side tracked me.

Gail Johnson (@guest_54718)
4 years ago

Wait…what? Somewhere in the comments someone wrote that foreigners are getting into our National Parks for free? True or Not?
While in Yellowstone, the Tetons and Yosemite it seemed more than half of those enjoying the parks were speaking another language. They are getting in free? Forget about cutting benefits for seniors who have paid taxes their entire life!
Many of those working in Teton were Asian. This was a place that the campground was double the amount generally charged at other, showers were $4 each and Laundry was exorbitant. Are we choosing concessionaires from other countries as well?
People…. watch Ken Burns series on the National Parks. There you will learn that those with the foresight to set aside special lands for the public to enjoy are and will be always under attack by commercial interests.

Dawn H (@guest_54754)
4 years ago
Reply to  Gail Johnson

I just looked that up on the National Park site and there is nothing to indicate that foreigners get into Park for free. However I found it cool that 4th graders can get a special pass!

Ann (@guest_55402)
4 years ago
Reply to  Gail Johnson

No, of course they aren’t getting in for free. Foreigners pay full price at the national parks. What {bleeped} said that? Oh, wait. It was probably on Fox News or something.

Tom (@guest_54651)
4 years ago

Seems like we were given plenty of notice when the fee increased from $10 for a lifetime pass. I got mine before the fee increase. Even with these changes, the fees are still comparable to or lower than most commercial campgrounds, and a good value. Congress needs to start cutting spending in the hugely wasteful areas and put more into programs like National Parks. You never here of them cutting funding for anything, they just keep increasing their spending.

Billy Bob Thorton (@guest_55298)
4 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Give Tom a ceeegar! Bingo. This is real simple people, if the government doesn’t get spending under control in the not so foreseeable future, the service on the debt will eat up so much of the budget, this time, right now, will be looked at as ” back in the good ole days” for sure.
We are at a cross roads in this country and this next year will determine if evil prevails. I’m betting on gold over evil, who’s with me?

Ann (@guest_54595)
4 years ago

You people who elected these bozos. And yes, RV Travel readers are mostly in that group. Happy now?

Dana (@guest_54597)
4 years ago
Reply to  Ann

So wanting our parks to be solvent so we get to keep them is the act of bozos? rofl. Did you even research the article or just swallow this biased opinion piece? The truth is that this was in a memo that hasn’t even been delivered to the committee officially and ONLY suggests black out dates for half price camping. 😉
That’s what you are calling people bozos over? lol.

Billy Bob Thorton (@guest_54648)
4 years ago
Reply to  Ann

Hey, I resemble that remark. :–) notice the big nose!

MartyB (@guest_54594)
4 years ago

It’s just incredible how these people try and find ways to screw the average citizen while continuously padding their own pockets.
In order to effect real change and stop average people from getting screwed we must remember these types of policies at election time and kick out those who put these people in cabinet and administrative positions. So it boils down to who you voted for in the last election (2016) to uncover the problem and throw the self serving bums out.

Grumpaw (@guest_54561)
4 years ago

I’ve been retired over 20 years, and enjoyed our Golden Age Passport all that time. The benefits have been stable and unchanged all the while other government bureaucracies have levied unconstitutional fees and charges and penalties and changed them at will. I think those who complain the least are targeted swiftly. I’m not man enough to pursue the same activities we’ve always enjoyed, but I can sure raise a stink about the betrayals of public faith that seem to be increasingly tossed at us by thoughtless and unaccountable bureaucrats . . .

Rich T (@guest_54817)
4 years ago
Reply to  Grumpaw

The people you’re complaining about are not “bureaucrats”. They are political appointees. Zinke, together with an entire cadre of xxxx (bleeped by editor), was appointed by our current “Commander In Chief”. The “bureaucrats” are the ones who follow politicians’ orders and somehow manage to do all the tasks that keep the parks going, despite the shutdowns, tax cuts and budget busting committed by preening, bloviating self-promoters who somehow get elected by the benighted voters who seem to swallow every bit of garbage that floats to the top of the interweb coconut telegraph line, and completely mis-identify the source of their outrage when it comes time to vote.

Billy Bob Thorton (@guest_55303)
4 years ago
Reply to  Rich T

Dude, we live in a republic. That means who ever wins the most electoral college votes wins, and gets to be the President for four years. Note: some knucleheads didnt read the constitution before the last election cycle.

Let’s look at the progress report at year three, shall we. 1. Lowest unemployment rate in 50ty years. Most Americans working in our 240 yr history. Highest tax revenue inflows into the government coffers EVER.

Now, here is the problem; Spending has increased faster than revenues. Government 101 states, the House of Representatives holds the purse strings, and proposes the budget, for approval to the Executive branch (aka The President) the President, when trying to control the spending of the house, get threatened that the government will be shut down, if He does not approve same. Then, the main stream media whips up the doomsday scenario for all the misinformed to play into, and we go round and round.

Solution; give control of the purse strings to competent, fiscal minded conservatives, to cut wasteful spending. Get our budget in balance, albeit over several years to minimize the pain, and get back to fiscal responsibilty. For those who thought this scenario was in place the first two years, i say to you two words “Paul Ryan” the conservative in name only. He lied to the Executive Branch, and refused to put legislation to the House floor for a vote. He left in disgrace, as is proper. We are divided in this country due to the actions of the previous administration. If we remain divided, you will see a situation arise in this great nation, the likes of which will make the great depression look like a church picnic. It is up to you.

Debra Weaver (@guest_54542)
4 years ago

Gee maybe they should start charging foreigners a fee to get in instead of letting them visit our national parks for free…..oh wait that would be the smart thing to do, instead lets run with the dumbest idea and make sure that a person who has paid into their retirement for their whole working life not get to enjoy any of it and make them PAY through the nose for all this junk…
What a bunch of money grabbing thieves!!!

Rich T (@guest_54970)
4 years ago
Reply to  Debra Weaver

Tell us, please – where did you get the idea that “foreigners” get into our national parks for free, while everyone else pays, either through an admission fee or a park pass of one kind or another? Tell us if you can. I’m sure you can’t, of if you can cite *something* it’s probably one of the many unverified, unfiltered sources that run roughshod over the truth many times each minute throughout the day. It’s a shame for you that you believe lies without question as long as they suit your personal bias. If you vote we all bear the burden of someone incapable of shouldering their civic responsibility. But shame on you for repeating the lies. If I were you I would take as an authoritative source the Parks Service website. You won’t find anything there concerning free admission for anyone. Or do you think this is another one of those secret plots that “they” don’t want YOU to know about, that are so celebrated on the interwebs by conspiracy theorists? Do us all a favor: Get real.

Ann (@guest_55403)
4 years ago
Reply to  Debra Weaver

Foreigners pay full price. What are you using for your information? Fox News?

Gary Taylor (@guest_54540)
4 years ago

That’s a bummer! Got our $10.00 card a few years ago and now that we’re ready to start using it, poof it’s gone.

Dana (@guest_54592)
4 years ago
Reply to  Gary Taylor

Did you even read the original memo (that hasn’t even been delivered to the committee yet? rofl)…says nothing about your card – only actual change mentioned is black out times for half price camping. That is hardly ‘poof, gone’. lol.

Ron Bunge (@guest_54529)
4 years ago

I have been a camp host for th4 eBLM for the last three years. In our campground, the Senior Pass is good for 1/2 off for the site and day-use fee if not camping. The electric is another $5 and not subject of 1/2 off as it is an extra amenity. Extras above the campsite fee are already not offered 1/2 off.

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