Gear pick of the year 2017 – Interagency Pass

From the USGS website

My recent article about the national parks received a fair amount of comments.

The comments showed how people are passionate about the parks regardless of the political beliefs.

People love the national parks and our public lands.

And access to these public lands is an issue we are passionate about.

So my Gear Pick of the Year for 2017?  An America the Beautiful (Annual Interagency Pass).  A purchase that will help you access these public lands in a more economical way.

Concern was expressed concern that the America the Beautiful (Annual Interagency Pass) may be going up in price.

As written in the earlier article, at $80 annually, the Interagency Pass is currently quite the bargain; the pass is good for NPS, BLM, USFS, National Wildlife Refuges, and others agencies.  People over sixty-two, permanently disabled, in the 4th grade, or in the military are eligible for a reduced cost or even a  free version of this pass.

At least talking to various NPS personnel recently, there is no talk of the pass going up in price.


So get it now!

In October and November alone, I used this pass in four national parks and three national monuments.  And two were visited Tuesday. Considering Grand Canyon National Park is $30 alone (and, as discussed, going up in price during prime season)  for the entrance, the pass quickly paid for itself.

But Paul, you are an unemployed bum. How can I, a contributing citizen to society, possibly make use of this pass?

Even when I was working diligently in beige box land, I always made use of this pass. The local recreation area honored it. I hung it up at trailheads and did not have to pay for parking. Some off-the-beaten-path places were free. And I always made use  of it during my precious vacation time on more than one occasion before I gave myself the gift of time in September.

If a person, or a family, goes to a National Park more than twice a year, they really should get the pass. Add in the misc smaller (less expensive) National Monuments, historic areas, USFS, BLM, wildlife refuges, etc. that also take this pass, and the ROI for purchasing an Interagency Pass is quite good.  Some state parks or private museums  near popular NPS units will even give a discount if you have the national pass.

Get a piece of “gear” that is truly valuable, and you will use. A person can only have so many packs, puffy jackets, rain shells, tents, etc.

And if you are looking for a gift that all outdoors people can use, GET THEM THIS ANNUAL PASS INSTEAD!  (Assuming they don’t have an annual pass already, of course.)   Combine the pass with a library card and the active outdoors person has two very valuable pieces of gear.

Top Fifty Pieces of Clickbait Crap is not something most experienced outdoors people need. Their gear system is established. And you purchasing a gift for them is not terribly helpful unless they specifically request you to buy something.

And, let us be honest,  these gift guides are really gift guides for you, the gentle reader.

Don’t buy gear if you don’t need it.  Do you need yet another ultralight knick-knack?

Get something that will help you ACCESS THE OUTDOORS MORE instead.

An America The Beautiful Pass will make our public lands more accessible to you.

Enjoy those mountains, canyons, forests, wetlands, or prairies.

And one card covers friends or family that are with you. And you can put a significant other on the pass. You share the gift this way, too!

One $80 purchase will pay for itself quite quickly if you enjoy those lands more than any $80 worth of stuff collected over the holiday season.

Truly opt to be outside.  And buy, and make use of, an America the Beautiful (Annual Interagency Pass).


7 Replies to “Gear pick of the year 2017 – Interagency Pass”

  1. If you’re 62 or older, the Senior Pass is still a bargain, even though it’s no longer $10 (as it was when I got it). You pay the $80 once and it’s good for the rest of your life. In addition to letting you into national parks, fish and wildlife refuges, and BLM sites that charge, if your regional national forests charge for trailhead parking (as they do here in the Pacific NW), it works for that too. Plus you get 50% off on campground fees.

    Since you have to show proof of age when buying it, it’s really not an item for gifting, though.

  2. In one of the Parks where daily/weekly passes are going up in price to $70, like Shenandoah NP, I understand there will be three options for most people not covered by the age, disability, military issues you mentioned:

    1) Daily/weekly: $70 per week

    2) Annual Park-specific: $75 per year

    3) Annual Interagency: $80 per year

    Numbers 1 and 2 mandate that the bulk of the fee stays with the Park that sold the Pass. Number 3 does not — most of those funds wind up in another basket administered by NPS out of DC. If I’m wrong about this, please let someone correct me but I’ve been told this by people at SNP who should know.

    This huge increase (#1), which will certainly decrease SNP visitation drastically by day-trippers from nearby urban areas like DC, Baltimore, Philly, Richmond, Pittsburgh has been “sold” to local communities as the methodology for improving tourism in the region by improving the local NP unit. But it will predictably have the opposite effect because most visitors to SNP make a day (or two) out of a visit. $70 to enter the Park is a deterrent, to say the least.

    Other western Parks instituting similar fee increases are more likely a vacation destination encompassing more days — possibly a week or greater. $70 for a week (vs. a day or two in a Park like SNP) is not that much of a deterrent.

    Looking at the price schedule above, it is predictable that visitors NOT scared off by #1 will opt for #2 or #3. As you point out, the Interagency Pass is quite a deal. Given that you get all the Parks for only $5 more than you get just SNP, why would anyone buy an annual SNP Pass? They will opt for #3, but SNP will not benefit that much if at all. This has not been presented honestly, in my opinion, and SNP will be a big loser if things remain as they are.

    Local businesses depending on tourism and Chambers of Commerce in the nine counties bordering SNP are rightfully concerned that they will be big losers too. They predict many jobs will be lost, and business bankruptcies will occur, because so many fewer people will visit the area starting in 2018. I can see it from their point of view.

    The answers, in my opinion:

    1) First, the NPS should be honest about all the intended AND unintended consequences this change will cause.

    2) The NPS should better consider the impact on local communities in determining which Parks should see these increases, and how much those increases should be. The visitor mix at Parks like Denali, Yosemite, Glacier, and Yellowstone are quite different than that experienced at Acadia, Mt. Ranier, and SNP. Especially SNP, because of its proximity to large urban areas making it most dependent on day trippers.

    3) Federal priorities are all wrong, and can only be changed by electing a pro-NPS Congress and President.

    4) There are some Parks where entrance fees would be impossible to manage, logistically, because there are so many driveable entry points. But there are others where the vast majority enter from just one or two locations. GSMNP is an example, and the Smokies are not included in this revenue-enhancing proposition. If the Smokies and perhaps four other well-visited Parks would adopt an entrance fee, the amount of these increases could be reduced across-the-board so they would not be much of a deterrent to Park visitation. NPS financial challenges would be met. Somewhat of a win-win until and unless we have a more pro-NPS government.

    5) The Comments Period for this has passed, but pressure can still be directed at those within NPS who are charged with adopting and implementing these increases. They are in a tough position, facing ever mounting financial challenges and maintenance backlogs, with a President and the majority in Congress hostile to their existence. They do need to consider other ways to spread the “pain” by initiating other revenue enhancements so the increases at just 17 Parks won’t be so drastic, and further reduce the burden on Parks like SNP. It would not hurt to phase these increases in, either.

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