National Parks may slash benefits to Senior Pass holders

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

National Parks may slash benefits to Senior Pass holdersIf 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.

##RVT918

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Kathy Derting

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?

Thanks!

Dawn athered! Ducoli

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

Ann

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

Troy

I wonder if this affects the disabled veterans pass too?

sfrankus

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

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.

John T

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.

Rich T

“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?

MARK GILLEY

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

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.

Tom

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.

Ann

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

MartyB

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

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 . . .

Debra Weaver

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!!!

Gary Taylor

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.

Ron Bunge

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.

Carson Axtell

Don’t count on Bernhardt having a generous view towards those on fixed or limited incomes, or even toward the “socialistic” public service aspect of the national parks and other agencies setup to administer public lands for ALL the people. He comes from that economically privileged class of people who looks down on those common people who don’t have the “industry” or “discipline” to concentrate their ambitions on making tons of money and acquiring access to political power. For such people, land is a commodity that is best left to private industry to determine what the most appropriate use should be: i.e. extracting even more personal wealth…

Tina

Guess we will be “locked out” of my national parks!🤬💔! We don’t have that kind of money to afford “full price” on something we paid for all our lives, thru taxes etc. sad!

Kevin

This is an interesting proposal that is very broad at best. If the ten recommendations were prioritized then changes to the Senior Pass in #7. That is a long way down the list. The proposal needs to be fleshed out. Which 5-10 parks? Why NPS and not BLM (think Quartzite). Improving NPS campgrounds? Sure but in most parks out west the current campgrounds are constrained by available land. MT, Rainier lost a whole campground due to flooding and a change in the river. Campgrounds would probably be put on land adjacent to the park in other public land, Food Trucks and mobile stores? Very intriguing. This might be the easiest proposal to enact as existing concessionaires could expand their business. Trucks would need to be closely monitored to make sure they have the ability to dispose of garbage and waste water, as well as power needs. Nobody wants to hear the drone of a generator at the park. All is workable and should be the result of intense negotiations. Everyone should direct their opinions and comments to the committee and their elected officials.