Today, our annual celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., is the first free national park day of the year.
This means every single American gets free entrance to every national park and national monument site in the country. It also means you’ve got no excuse to spend the kids’ day off from school bumming around indoors.
But before you get too excited, before you furiously fire up another window in your Internet browser to locate your nearest park and figure out how to get there, I want you to get angry, I want you to get pissed. This year the National Park Service is granting us only four free days, down from 10 last year.
Let me repeat that. Last year and years before it, we had 10 free days. This year we have four.
If you think this is just a coincidence, think again. Under the “leadership” of our new President and Secretary Ryan Zinke, the U.S. Department of the Interior is abusing our national park system, shrinking national monuments, attempting to change rules to sell off land for profit, proposing rate hikes, and, yes, even taking away free days.
Put differently, the people running our government are cheating us out of the park system that was established for the “enjoyment of the people” all those years ago.
IMHO, there are two main ways to fight back. First, of course, is to take advantage of all of the free days we now get. Go today. Go April 21, which is the first day of National Park Week (also the week of Earth Day). Go Sept. 22, National Public Lands Day. And go on Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11.
In addition, please support our parks throughout the rest of the year, however and whenever you can.
Remember: Family travel doesn’t have to be big or expensive or once-in-a-lifetime incredible. It can be a few hours at your closest park. Just get out there.