PAWTUCKET, RI – The National Park Service (NPS) is commemorating its 100th anniversary this year, and to celebrate, entrance fees will be waived at all national parks on 16 special days in 2016. The first fee-free day is this coming Monday, January 18, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The other entrance fee-free days for 2016 include:
April 16 through 24 – National Park Week
August 25 through 28 – National Park Service Birthday (and following weekend)
September 24 – National Public Lands Day
November 11 – Veterans Day
U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the National Park Service is encouraging Rhode Islanders to take advantage of the free admissions and enjoy America’s national parks: “We want everyone to be able to enjoy America’s national parks. These admission-free days provide a great opportunity for people to get out there, hit the trails, and experience all these great places. It’s a nice way to celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial and a nice way to look forward to the new national historic park right here in the Blackstone Valley.”
Today, Senator Reed visited the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, which could soon be part of a national historic park that will be managed by the National Park Service. Senator Reed, who wrote the 2015 law establishing the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, met with National Park Service staff to get an update on their efforts to determine the scope of the park’s boundaries and long-term park management plan. Once finalized, the multi-site Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park will become Rhode Island’s first national historical park, encompassing areas of the Blackstone River and Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket as well as significant sites in nearby Rhode Island mill towns, including Slatersville (in North Smithfield) and Ashton (in Cumberland), as well as parts of Worcester, Whitinsville, and Hopedale in Massachusetts.
“The Blackstone Valley is truly a national treasure. It is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and includes thousands of acres of beautiful, undeveloped land, and waterways that are home to diverse wildlife, cultural sites, and numerous recreational opportunities for Rhode Islanders. Establishing this park took perseverance and we still have a lot of work ahead of us to preserve this special area. I hope the park will bring greater recognition to Rhode Island’s unique history and create new opportunities for tourism, education, and recreation,” said Senator Reed, who inserted a provision to provide $927,000 in federal funding for the Blackstone Heritage Park this year in the Omnibus Appropriations bill.
There are currently 409 National Park Service sites covering more than 84 million acres nationwide. Only 127 of these NPS sites charge entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for things like camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.
Last year, nearly 293 million people visited national parks and spent $15.7 billion in local communities, which, according to the National Park Service, supported 277,000 jobs and had a $29.7 billion effect on the economy.