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EXPERIENCE AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL FOR FREE
With the summer upon us, I’m sure many of our readers are looking for ways to get out and enjoy the sunshine. While going to a local park or just doing a lap around your neighborhood can be a great way to take in the warm weather, some may be itching to travel a little further afield. For the adventurous and the curious, the National Park Service (NPS) has quite the deal available. The “America the Beautiful Access Pass” is a program by the NPS to help those living with a permanent disability enjoy some of our nation’s most beautiful sights. Those who have been determined to have a permanent disability are eligible to receive a free, lifetime pass to any U.S. national park or federal recreation site. You do not need to be deemed 100% disabled to qualify. “But wait,” you might ask, “aren’t national parks free to visit anyway?” This is a popular misconception. Many parks do require some fee to get in, mostly to cover maintenance of the site. Depending on the park, these fees may be charged on a per-person or per-vehicle basis. With one of these lifetime passes, you and up to three adults (kids under 16 are always free) can enter these areas free of charge. If the park charges by vehicle, the pass covers one non-commercial vehicle, regardless of passenger count. In addition to free entry, the pass also provides discounts for what the NPS calls “Expanded Amenity Fees.” These can be everything from securing individual campsites to paying for guided tours. This makes it that much easier to enjoy the natural beauty and the historic significance of our country. In fact, many of these parks are right here in our own backyard. Here in Virginia, we have the pick of the litter when it comes to natural and historic sites. Just east of Williamsburg, there’s the Colonial National History Park that runs along the James River from Jamestown to Yorktown, which contains many important landmarks from colonial times through the end of the Revolutionary War. For the nature lovers out there, Shenandoah National Park lies to the northwest. Spanning a
portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this protected wilderness offers stunning vistas — and you don’t even have to leave your car to see it. The famous Skyline Drive runs the length of the park, allowing visitors to take in nature’s beauty with ease. These are just two examples of parks our state has to offer. There’s also the Assateague Island National Seashore, George Washington’s Birthplace, Appomattox Court House, Cumberland Gap, and many more. For those looking to travel a little further afield, Bluestone National Scenic River in West Virginia or the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina are both a short road trip away. With this pass, you’ll also be able to enjoy incredible sights like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite for free. You can find other national parks at NPS.gov/FindaPark. So, where do you get one of these access passes? Well, if you live near Yorktown, you can go to the Colonial National History Park in person, where they issue passes. Alternatively, you can fill out a form (found at Store.usgs.gov/s3fs-public/access_pass_application.pdf) and apply by mail, though this will require a $10 processing fee. In either case, you’ll need to provide documentation of your permanent disability and proof of residency or citizenship. Want an easier way to get this lifetime pass for free? Just bring your documentation to our office, and we’ll help you mail the application. We’ll even cover the $10 fee. We have our fair share of nature and history lovers here at the firm, myself included. When we learned of these passes, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to give something back to our clients. If you’re looking to make some lifelong memories this summer, this pass is a great way to do it.
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