By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
Local officials at the National Park Service and U.S.D.A. Forest Service hope a new pass system will make visiting Del Norte nature areas easier.
Called "America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass," the new pass replaces the Golden Eagle, Golden Age and Golden Access passports as well as the National Parks Pass.
"It will lighten confusion about the passes and streamline the system," said Jim Wheeler, Park Ranger Interpreter for Redwood National and State Parks. People who have the existing passes, however, don't have to replace them.
The old system offered "Golden" passes in Forest Service areas, but charged people an additional $15 for a National Park Service pass for them. The opposite was true for owners of National Park Service passes in areas where "Golden" passes were used.
"I don't know why they offered them all in the first place," Wheeler said.
The new system offers a single federal pass to park patrons. It also offers a free pass to volunteers who have given more than 500 hours of service to the park systems.
Passes cover admission for everyone in a vehicle. In walk-in sites, the pass covers the pass holder and three other adults. Children younger than 16 pay nothing.
The new passes have four options:
An annual cost of $80
A $10 lifetime senior pass for U.S. citizens 62 and older
Free lifetime pass for permanently disabled citizens
Free volunteer pass as it applies to volunteer time donated
The annual pass costs more than National Park Service passes used to. They were previously $50, with a $15 fee to use areas under Forest Service management. That's a 60 percent hike.
Congress decided to eliminate the separate National Park Service pass. The new passes are intended to slow the growth of administrative costs and raise money for the parks.